|the cast of Hair|
photo: Heather Butcher
Click here for more information on this production that runs through August 9th.
"...Hair’s freewheeling style of musical presentation is ideal for Desert Stages....with a setting as intimate as Desert Stages’ mainstage productions, audiences are, by default, already a part of the show; sit in the front row and you’ll feel as if you’re already on stage, an unofficial passive member of the cast....A drawback for those who have no prior knowledge of Hair when seeing the show presented this way is the clarity of events. It’s possible that some will not know what’s going on or why, plus, depending on age, the damaging, personal impact of what it was to burn a draft card or the effects of protesting the Vietnam war may not have the same emotional impact that it has for older audience members. Before going, check on-line for a synopsis. It will make all the difference....the show flows from one situation to another, punctuated by well known, high-energy rock songs with a sixties theatrical flair. It brings to life its themes and situations by the ebullient talent of the colorful young cast, none of whom were around in ’67 when the musical first exploded on the scene,..What you will remember is a young cast that never quits, continually on the move, bouncing from one song to another, attacking each moment with the ferocity of an athlete determined to win. Both director Samuel E. Wilkes and choreographer Nicole L. Olson have used the limitations of theatre-in-the-round to its maximum advantage so that no matter where you sit, for the most part you can still see everything....Unfortunately, there were times when here, lyrics and even dialog couldn’t be heard. This had nothing to do with the volume of the score. Actors need to be reminded that even though the setting is intimate and the cast are mic’d, it’s still live theatre and voices need to project at all times, even if it feels unnatural to the performer. Losing key moments of dialog or important lyrics only add to the frustration of not always knowing what’s happening....The key to Desert Stages’ success with Hair is keeping the original, overall intent intact. ...Hippie costumes of the late sixties are nicely achieved by Tamara Treat who manages to make the cast appear authentic without overdoing the beads and the headbands, plus the production doesn’t attempt to update things. Hair is very much a thing of its time. Amazingly, some regional productions have brought the show forward and made characters protest Iraq instead of Vietnam. That’s idiotic and creative disaster. Desert Stages, despite its occasional rough-around-the edges presentation, does it right." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)
"The rock musical Hair exploded into a cultural phenomenon in the late 1960s. The dozens of varied rock tunes set among a story of free love, drugs, and teenagers who are protesting the Vietnam War hit a nerve and the show went on to a healthy run on Broadway, in London, and around the world. While the musical is a moving piece of theatre, the story itself is slight and somewhat confusing. Desert Stages Theatre's production of this musical classic is solid and, with clear direction and an expert cast, fairly successful in offsetting some of the show's shortcomings. DST also fortunately doesn't try to update the time period to make it more relevant, keeping it firmly rooted in the turbulent Vietnam era of the late 1960s....Hair focuses steadily on a tribe of hippies and the journey of a young man named Claude. It is mainly a series of musical vignettes featuring songs that introduce the characters, with only minimal dialogue to give a few plot points to connect the dots between the relationships the leads share. But even with the spare book, the main plot is fairly easy to follow: Claude is caught up between the pull of his uptight parents, who want to send him off to the army, as they think it will make a man out of him, and the three-way relationship he shares with the crazy, radical Berger, the leader of the "Tribe," and the highly political Sheila. Torn between his allegiance and love for the Tribe and doing what his parents want, Claude makes a decision that ultimately sets his unfortunate future in motion.... the virtually non-stop, memorable music washing over you and the enthusiasm of the Desert Stages cast help to offset the show's several shortfalls in terms of plot and character development....Director Samuel E. Wilkes has found an energetic troupe of actors to bring the tribe to vibrant life, full of passion and love but also not afraid to portray the harsh realities of the period. Anthony Chavez brings a heightened, yet almost peaceful, sensitivity to Claude...Colin Ross is full of life as the crazy and wildly charismatic Berger...Alanna Kalbfleisch adeptly portrays Sheila, the radical protestor who struggles with the love she has for both of these men....Her warm vocals make "Easy To Be Hard" both beautiful and heartfelt....There isn't a vocal misstep among the ensemble members of the free spirited Tribe. ..Wilkes' exuberant direction makes excellent use of DST's in the round staging, providing a heightened sense of intimacy in the small space without having the actors get directly in the faces of the audience. Wilkes has not only honed meaningful performances from his cast but creatively stages the songs and scenes in neverending and always changing movement. ...Nicole L. Olson's choreography is period centric yet still feels fresh. Mark 4man's expert musical direction includes an abundance of memorable moments...Tamara Treat's costumes are a non-stop parade of flower power, tie died designs that combine expertly with Jacob Hamilton's period perfect hair and make-up designs. Matt Stetler's beautiful lighting design include many highlights, especially the non-stop light show during "Three Five Zero Zero."...Almost fifty years after it first premiered, Hair could be perceived today as just a nostalgic period piece, yet DST's passionate production proves that the journey of Claude and the members of the Tribe still resonates today. While Hair's book may be slightly confusing, and DST's production can't solve every problem with the show, it still results in a moving and uplifting piece of theatre. Chock full of memorable tunes and vibrant performances, DST's production is also beautifully directed with moving, impressive performances." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)