Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hippie musical still relevant today

[2 articles]

Hippie musical still relevant today


By Steve Kidd
January 12, 2010

It's more than four decades since Hair was first performed, but time
hasn't dulled the relevance of the themes in the famous musical.

Songs from the show, like Age of Aquarius, Let the Sun Shine In and
Hair are still well-known, but Soundstage director Lynne Leydier said
the subject matter also still rings true.

"I see a lot of parallels there, with the war, with the troubles with
the establishment," she said.

Confirming the connection with the current world situation, the
production is dedicated to the memory of Captain Jonathan Snyder, who
was killed in Afghanistan in 2008 while serving with the Canadian
Armed Forces. Snyder had been a student of Leydier's, even singing
the role of Roger in the 1999 Soundstage production of Grease.

The musical, she said, is about finding a balance and striving to
find a voice, a struggle that each generation goes through.

"It speaks to all of us because we've all asked these questions."

Leydier was first exposed to Hair when she was a child, through a
movie adaption. She wasn't impressed.

"I always had this negative association with Hair," she said. That
is, until she saw a revival of Hair in New York over the summer. "I
was blown away. We were crying at the end of it. I was shocked, actually."

Hair, which debuted in October 1967 tells the story of a group of
politically active, long-Haired hippies living in New York City and
fighting against being drafted into the Vietnam War.

The story revolves around Claude (Lucas Penner), Berger (Pat Brown),
Sheila ( Julie-Anna Martin) as they and their friends struggle to
balance their lives, loves and the sexual revolution with their
rebellion against the war and their conservative parents and society.

Leydier was inspired enough by the New York production to try staging
a production of it in Penticton.

'With all the environmental issues we have and the war, there are
just so many issues that are so relevant," she said. "It was kind of
a profound experience for me watching Hair and I thought it would
really be good to do something like that here."

Leydier was pleased to see the intense experience she had watching
Hair was mirrored in the performers taking part in the Soundstage production.

Unlike most productions, she finds that rather than slipping away
during breaks, the cast will stay together, discussing the issues raised.

"It's been a profound experience cast, every single one of them," she
said, noting how the cast has evolved during the rehearsals. "It's a
transformative musical."

As challenging as the musical is mentally, Leydier said it's just as
tough physically, keeping up with the dancing and singing.

"These guys work really hard," she said. "The show is rather incredible."

While she expects a large turnout from middle-aged people, she hopes
to see younger people attending the play as well.

"I really wanted to reach the youth," she said.

Hair will be playing for four nights at the Penticton Lakeside Resort
from Jan. 13-16 at 7 p.m. as well as a 2 p.m. show on the 16th.
Tickets are $22.50 and are available at 250-493-8221 or at the
Lakeside Resort.


'Hair' wraps its moral universe in stirring songs


By John Staton
Published: Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hippies are often thought of as being dissolute. But if one thing
stands out about the rock musical "Hair," it's the youthful
exuberance and, promiscuity and drug use aside, the innocence and
idealism that were the foundation of the original counterculture movement.

One of the many attributes of a super-exciting and often beautiful
production of "Hair" running at City Stage is that it captures, in
thrilling fashion, that sense of stepping into a new moral universe,
one that was freed from the strictures of the society of the day even
if it would later collapse under the weight of its anything-goes
attitude. Just as importantly, "Hair" sounds great, looks wonderful
and features stirring performances of its famous songs by a cast
keyed in to the show's abundant sense of fun.

Wilmington singer Bibis Ellison gets things started on a soulful note
with her vocally fantastic take on the opening number, "Aquarius."
From there the ensemble cast, or The Tribe, takes over the loosely
plotted show. The story, what there is of it, is mainly concerned
with whether Claude Hooper Bukowski (William Day, the show's director
and a last-minute replacement of David Lorek, who is listed in the
program) will burn his draft card. In between numbers about sex
("Sodomy"), drugs ("Hashish") and celebrations/explanations of the
liberated hippie lifestyle, Claude searches for his identity. He
tries on an English accent, fights with his parents over money and
his chronic joblessness and, in one well-orchestrated sequence, drops
acid as human history unfolds before him in an era-mixing mashup that
includes a brilliant turn by Candace Evanofski as a sassy Abe Lincoln.

Ultimately, "Hair" is as much about a very conflicted young man as it
is about a movement, and Day brings a bravado tinged with uncertainty
that totally works. Plus, he sings the daylights out of his songs.

Elsewhere, Adam Poole, as the hippie leader Berger, shows himself to
be one of Wilmington's top up-and-coming actors and brings an
electric energy to songs like the rapid-fire "Donna." Sophie Amelkin
uses her jaw-droppingly lovely voice to great effect on the pop
nugget "Frank Mills" as well as in the harmonically ecstatic
"Electric Blues." And Kandyce Brown's soaring, bouncy take on "White
Boys," to reference its lyrics, elicits both goosebumps and chills.
Other standouts include Jeremiah Williams' butch take on the gay
Woof; Audra Smith's addled, pregnant Jeannie; and Stephen Raeburn's
entertaining portrayal of the gender-bending Margaret Mead.

"Hair" benefits from the direction of Day, who has performed in it
three times previously. His leadership no doubt helped mold a cast of
talented individuals into a true ensemble.

The show's tech aspects are impressive as well. David T. Lowdermilk's
thrusting, dynamic choreography is consistently eye-catching and
engaging, as is Dallas LaFon's skillful lighting design, which adds
texture and depth, particularly with the use of double spotlights
during some solos. But Chiaki Ito's band is the show's backbone.
Guitarist Bob Russell and trumpet player John Crowley absolutely kill
it, and for a special treat show up a little early and check out a
pre-show concert of jazzed up tunes like Sly & the Family Stone's
funktastic "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)."

To be sure, while "Hair" has a number of perfect moments, it's not a
perfect production. There were a few minor mic issues on Saturday,
and Morganna Bridgers' version of "Good Morning Starshine" and Keith
Welborn's "Colored Spade" were a bit off, even as both performers
redeemed themselves numerous times elsewhere. And on the whole, it
would be nice to see a bit more character development overall (other
that Day's depthful turn as Claude). But frankly, there isn't a great
deal of character development written into the script, something that
might intentionally reflect a bunch of characters who are, literally,
in development.

But things like these are easy forgive in a show as fun and moving as
this one.

The word that kept occurring to me as I watched it was "beautiful."
For what it's worth, I'll be back to see it again.

John Staton: 343-2343


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