The Age of Aquarius Lives
HAIR the musical shines at the Kennedy Center. Catch performances
through Nov. 21.
By Daniel Elliott
November 15, 2010
The only thing I knew about HAIR prior to seeing it this weekend at
the Kennedy Center was that it was a musical from the 1960s about
hippies and that at one point all the actors on stage get naked. If
you haven't seen it yet either, and/or the description I just gave is
about as much as you know about HAIR, then do yourself a favor and go
see this spectacle.
The show is fabulous and thoroughly entertaining. Its raw sexuality
and uninhibited vivacity make for a welcome awkwardness not usually
seen or experienced on any of the Kennedy Center stages. It thrusts
the "flower power" spirit of the 1960s right in your face, literally.
The actors run on and off the stage, standing on chairs, tousling the
hair of people in the crowd and handing out flowers. You can't help
but get caught up in the free-love, live for the now exuberance of
the times the musical portrays.
Yet HAIR does much more, is much more, than stoned hippies, good
rock-and-roll music and gratuitous nudity. It's an exposé on how a
generation came to find and define itselfa dichotomous struggle of
having to follow The Greatest Generation and fighting against the
immediately perceived wrongfulness of the Vietnam War.
It is a social commentary, presciently accurate considering its
release was in 1968, on how America was changing faster and more
rapidly than most people could grasp or readily accept. It is a story
about love and peace, where a group of friends bonded together to try
and find meaning in life and each other.
Supported by a fantastic soundtrack of well-known songs like
"Aquarius" and "Let the Sun Shine In," this rock musical does not
allow you to sit still, especially when you have one of the actors
singing right in your face!
The highlight for me, however, was Claude's psychedelic drug-induced
trip in Act 2, where after smoking something funny he descends into a
crazy journey through what appears to be bits and pieces he remembers
from high school history class, mixed with his current life and
conundrum of being shipped off to Vietnam. In the ensuing melee you
see Abraham Lincoln being stalked and shot by John Wilkes Booth,
George Washington leading troops into battle against the Viet Cong
and Aretha Franklin singing R-E-S-P-E-C-T. A crazy trip indeed!
For anyone who wants a glimpse into the era known as "The Sixties,"
or for those looking to relive the fun, free flowing good times of
that magical era, HAIR should not be missed. You will have to hurry,
however, there is not much time left to catch it live at the Kennedy
Centerperformances run through Nov. 21.
A whole lot of 'Hair' at ASU Gammage
November 19, 2010
Steel Burkhardt first performed the rock musical "Hair" as a freshman
But it wasn't until he joined the recent Tony Award-winning Broadway
revival, which stops Dec. 7 at Arizona State University's Gammage
Auditorium, that he truly understood the power and significance of
the iconic show.
"The musical is about people really standing up the first time for a
change," said Burkhardt from a tour stop in Washington, D.C. "And if
you stood tall, then that change would happen."
"Hair" tells the story of a group of hippies in 1960s New York,
living a Bohemian lifestyle and protesting against the Vietnam War.
The show, which debuted in 1967 and had a controversial nude scene at
the time, originally ran off-Broadway, then followed with a successul
Broadway run and in 2008 was revived for a fresh take.
Burkhardt, who portrays Berger, said it struck a chord with audiences
from the start because the show opened at an important time of social
"It was a big moment then, between the war, draft and civil rights
movement, all of it was coming to a very major crossroad," he said.
Some of these issues still exist, including new ones, Burkhardt said.
"We still have unpopular wars, but there is no draft and now there is
the fight for marriage equality," he said.
Burkhardt said people really identified with the music, some of which
became top 10 hits by popular bands. Familiar tunes include
"Aquarius," "Easy to Be Hard," "Good Morning Starshine," "Hair" and
"Let the Sunshine In."
In the beginning, Burkhardt was involved with re-launching the
musical as a three-day concert at Central Park in New York City. He
went on to the Broadway revival and even did the production with most
of that cast on the West End in London.
Previously, he was a tribe member in all of the shows, but he's one
of the lead characters in the national tour.
"The energy level that we bring to the stage is explosive every
night, and I set the bar for that every time I go out on that stage," he said.
In this particular production, directed by Diane Paulus, the hippies
interact with the audience, for instance, rubbing their hair on people.
"It's one of the best parts of the show, and some people aren't into
it, so we leave them alone. And some are too overly into it," he said
with a laugh.
During the original run in 1967, the nude scene at the end of Act 1
came under fire from critics. Many cast members are naked in the
production, but it's optional, Burkhardt said.
For Burkhardt, who didn't undress for the first two shows during the
Central Park run, it took time to become comfortable about bearing it
all on stage.
"I decided to do it during that last show, because when could you
ever get legally naked in Central Park, and I do that scene all of
the time now," Burkhardt said. "You see people get naked all of the
time on movie screens and cable now."
Burkhardt said he's grateful for the resurgence of "Hair" in the last
three years. He knew the show would attract Baby Boomers and
ex-hippies, but he was surprised at how much teens and young adults
have flocked to many of the performances.
"Young people love it so much because there's the message of be who
you are and be what you want to be," he said.
Mitchell Vantrease may be reached at 623-876-2526 or