It’s been 50 years since the original Broadway opening, and now it’s come back to life as a Lansing Community College production. Does "Hair" speak to audiences now, as it did then?
Yes, and no. Cast members in this latest resurrection are clearly enthusiastic, energized, filled with the requisite joy of singing their hearts out. Saturday night’s audience rewarded the cast with a standing ovation.
Those of us, including myself, who were 29 going on 30 at the time — 79 going on 80 now — remember the play and the times as a convergence of three powerful coming-of-age themes.
Remember the draft? Many, of course, do not. It was abolished in 1973. What does it do to the mind of a young man, 18 to 22 years old, to be informed you were going to war in Vietnam? A war no one declared, which had no apparent impact on the dayto-day lives of Americans?
And the so-called sexual revolution?
Thanks to “the pill,” women were liberated from the unintended consequences of an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy.
What about LSD? Sprung on unsuspecting college students as a blow-your mind quick trip to nirvana, satori — enlightenment. Sometimes entertaining, yet sometimes inducing a psychotic episode and suicide.
Many of us who were emerging into adulthood then nostalgically mourn the passing of certain aspects of that period. “Hair” is an anachronism — a time that never quite was.
A cast of LCC twenty-somethings works very hard to bring it all back. Tribal dancers careen artfully across the massive Dart Auditorium stage and out into the audience, capturing the innocence and naïveté of the times.
Kudos to choreographer Lauren Mudry and to costumer Chelle Peterson for their contributions to evoking the images of the era.
Boris Nikolowski is the “tribe” leader Berger, personifying the hairy high and low hippie who energizes the tribe. Singing and dancing and showing off an upside-down yoga pose for an unending moment, he captures and captivates the audience.
Keely Robinson as Sheila Franklin is fluid, sleek, lithe, sensual, and while singing the song “Easy to be Hard,” displays a strong throaty low-toned voice as well.
Max Frutig as Claude gets three “Manchester” solos, each one revealing the faux English persona he brings to the tribe. Claude is at the heart of the Vietnam darkness that crushes the tribe’s embrace of the idea that love conquers all.
A powerful ensemble of dancing, singing actors includes multiple solos by others as well.
Ny’Kieria Blocker opens with a throaty “Age of Aquarius,” while Kelly Mc Nabb, in the role of Crissy, brings a disarmingly tender moment to the song “Frank Mills.”
Musical director Jeff English assembled a small group of four musicians to carry the load for an ensemble of singers. Alas, despite some powerful moments it was not quite enough to carry the day. I found myself longing for a second set of drums, more percussion overall, or a thumping bass line.
Did the production speak to people? Was the audience “woke” to the turbulence of our current cultural political upheaval?
I think so, with hope.
“Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock
Musical” $15, general, $10 seniors, $5 students Nov. 9-10, 8 p.m. Nov. 11, 2 p.m. Dart Auditorium 500 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing www.internal.lcc.edu/cma/ theater (517) 483-1546