New theater troupe puts on strong, beautiful 'Hair'
By Hap Erstein
June 11, 2010
For an object lesson in how quickly the outrageous can become
nostalgia, consider the case of Hair.
When it opened on Broadway in 1968, the so-called "American tribal
love-rock musical" was a hippie invasion on Establishment turf, a
bunch of unkempt counter-culture freaks singing pro-drug, anti-war
songs and professing free love.
Today, 42 years later, many of those flower children have cut
whatever hair they have left and retired to Boca Raton, just in time
to see their youth in flashback in an energetic, if squeaky clean
revival of the Galt MacDermot-James Rado-Gerome Ragni show full of
sunny protest numbers once calculated to shock.
The new Entr'Acte Theatrix troupe has mounted a very worthy
production of Hair as its inaugural offering, with smartly conceived
choreography and imaginative direction by K.D. Smith. Surely it is
not the company's fault if its hard work seems more benignly
ingratiating than confrontational.
The show's script was never its strength. It revolves around
long-haired Anglophile Claude Hooper Bukowski, an aimless soul who
receives his draft notice and faces the prospect of becoming a
mortality statistic in the Vietnam War. The score, however, is loaded
with such period anthems as Aquarius, Good Morning Starshine and Let
the Sun Shine In, rhythmic tunes geared to getting Baby Boomers and
even their grandchildren swaying along.
Entre'acte, a professional offshoot of the decade-old Palm Beach
Principal Players, aims to bolster the resumes of emerging young
performers in "edgier" musicals. There is certainly plenty of nascent
talent in the 29-member cast, though by Thursday night's opening
Steven Fabian's five-piece band was drowning out many of the song's lyrics.
Kyle Schnack is an appealing central focus as Claude, though his
singing is occasionally erratic. Ben Michaels (Claude's pal Berger)
does not have many vocal showcases, but he compensates with charisma
to spare. Lisagaye Tomlinson kicks off the show with a powerhouse
rendition of Aquarius and demonstrates that it was no fluke with the
second act lead vocal on White Boys.
Jessica Kris handles the dramatic torch song Easy to Be Hard
effectively, though the number's motivation a rejected shirt
never seemed sufficient. And Mari Bryan does well with the solo
tangent Frank Mills.
But Smith actually manages to make Hair more than a series of
individual songs. She is particularly effective constructing stage
images in Claude's extended second act hallucinations and in her
simple, but potent dance steps for the ensemble Tribe. And yes, they
do doff their duds during the dimly-lit first act finale, a statement
of their freedom from clothes which seems much more innocent than edgy.
Following this weekend's run at the Caldwell Theatre, Extre'Acte
Theatrix's Hair marches up to Palm Beach Gardens High School for an
additional five performances through June 20.
Where: Entre'Acte Theatrix at the Caldwell Theatre, 7901 N. Federal
Hwy., Boca Raton.
When: Through Sun., June 13.
Tickets: $25-$30. Call: (561) 241-7432 0r (877) 245-7432.
The verdict: A nostalgia trip back to the turbulent '60s with plenty
of Broadway rock hits, performed with squeaky innocence by a
promising young company.