At The Shop Theatre (125 East 2nd) until July 2, 2016
hairmusical.brownpapertickets.com or at the door
Posted June 17, 2016
“Let the sun shine/Let the sun shine in”, rings the curtain down on this Renegade Arts Co. production of HAIR. And it really rings! At the preview it was all I could do to stop myself from clambering out of my seat at the finale and joining the “be-in” onstage. During the run, it’s going to happen.
This anthemic song from the 1967 tribal rock musical HAIR has nothing to do with a prayer for sunny skies but a passionate plea for love and freedom. With Trump trumpeting about a wall between the US and Mexico, refugees fleeing war-torn countries and the gunning down of innocents in a gay bar in Orlando, HAIR is so timely, it hurts. Let the sun shine. Let it be soon.
It’s an unusual musical: basically, more than forty songs loosely strung together with vignettes from the 60s. Free love. Anti-Vietnam War. Drugs. Liberation. These were the hippie days with flared pants, tied-dyed everything and lots of marijuana, hashish and mushrooms.
The over-arching story is Claude’s. Like most of the hippies, Claude comes from a conservative middle-class family who are shocked at his tune-in, turn-on and drop-out attitude. His best friend Berger is a much more liberated, bi-sexual extrovert. They hang out with what they call their “tribe”: a motley crew of New York City flower children. “Make Love Not War” read their protest signs.
And there’s a whole lotta loving going on in HAIR. Jeanie (Michelle Bardach) is pregnant, “knocked up by some crazy speed freak”. The black girls are lusting after the white guys (“White Boys Walking in Space”) while the white girls are hot for the black guys (“Black Boys”).
Early audiences were shocked by the show’s nudity, desecration of the American flag, promiscuity and the celebration of psychedelic drugs. But audiences got over it and lengthy runs ensued from New York to London and beyond. Wikipedia tells us “By 1970, Hair was a huge, international financial success”; the movie followed in 1979.
Produced by Jim Buckshon, this is Renegade Arts Co.’s inaugural production and it’s dynamite with two dozen performers and a band in a funky venue on a small stage, part of which is taken up with a full-sized VW van (set design by CJ McGillivray).
With that many performers in that intimate setting, choreography by Dawn Ewen (also the director) is astonishing. Many of these young performers – drawn from Studio 58, Cap U, and various college and university programs across the country – are triple threats: they sing, dance and act. All the voices are excellent; some are spectacular. The four-piece band, under the musical direction of Kerry O’Donovan, produces great rocking sound. When the whole ensemble is singing and dancing and the band is playing to beat the band, it’s fantastic.
As Claude, Julien Galipeau, a Studio 58 student, rocks the place with “I Got Life” and later, “Eyes Look Your Last”. Jacob Woike, as Berger, has his pants off within moments of the curtain going up and is the sexiest critter on stage. Steffanie Davis, with her spectacular pipes, kickstarts the whole show off with “Aquarius”. Alex Gullason is Shelia, the major love interest, who sings “Easy To Be Hard” and the lovely “Good Morning Starshine”.
Too many great performances to mention them all but Janelle Reid will take her foxy look and fab voice anywhere she wants. Ditto Marc Williams, Cecilly Day, Amy Gartner, Kris Kuruneri and Oliver Castillo.
Costumes by Clara Dixon will remind all the old hippies in the audience of their beads and headbands.
Don’t worry if the moon isn’t in the Seventh House or Jupiter isn’t aligned with Mars, check this show out. With brownies (hash-free) available in the lobby, HAIR is a love-in on Vancouver’s 2nd Avenue.