Last week UNCG premiered the beloved rock musical, “‘Hair’”. It is a show about the lives of a group of hippies living in 1960s New York City. The cast was full of energy and the parts were all well acted, but the real stars of the show were the production design, costumes and, of course, the hair. However, the history behind this musical is perhaps the most interesting part of all.
When the show premiered on Off-Broadway in 1967 it was met with controversy and uproar. The story discusses sex and drugs casually, and even includes a scene with full nudity. Furthermore, it sheds a negative light on the Vietnam war and the subsequent draft that came with it.
This musical challenges the traditionalist values of the past by trying to celebrate a potential progressive future. In that way, this show could not have been more relevant today. Watching this musical was like watching a time capsule into the 1960s, but it was also like looking into a giant mirror.
There were many times when one could reflect back on what they were watching and relate it to the troubles of today. For example, one of the many themes in the story was the stigmatization of the use of marijuana, which is still often discussed today. “‘Hair’” is the perfect illustration of how some of the same problems can still be fought generation after generation.
Aside from the show’s history, “‘Hair’” is actually a very upbeat and joyous show overall. It wants you to feel the love and freedom that the characters often talked about. Yes, it brings up dark subjects like war and prejudice but it almost always accompanies those topics with some sort of visual gag or joke.
UNCG’s version of “‘Hair’” was beautiful to watch. The show’s production design perfectly matched its psychedelic and bright tone. The stage was simplistic yet colorful. Protest signs and trippy tapestries decorated the background and even the floor was painted with typical hippie sayings like “Peace”and“Love,”. It was a very abstract set but it immediately got you into the mindset of the ‘60s.
The costumes were among one of the best parts of the show. Although everyone in the cast dressed like a hippie, there were no similar looks between anyone. Each outfit was unique and different for each character. The myriad of colors, textures and styles made for a spectacular visual feast.
The hair was also done amazingly, which should be expected for a production named for it. Almost every woman had some sort of accessory or flower in her hair. The wigs and extensions were also quite impressive, as they looked very natural and realistic for the era.
The cast was overall very impressive, but the standout has to be William Stapleton, who plays the lead, Claude. His voice was very easy on the ears and his acting was quite earnest and believable. You really felt his character’s conflict.
The one critique I would have for the show was that often the music was louder than the vocalist. This made for more than a few missed lines and jokes. Most of the important information presented was usually sung so if you missed a line or two, you could easily get confused.
It is also important to note that the story structure was not told in a typical narrative flow. This musical was less of a beat-for-beat story and more of a collection of songs sung by individuals and groups complaining about their problems with a loose story arch between them. This is a form of storytelling that some might like but could also turn others away.
Overall, it was a fun night at the theater. There was always something pleasing to look at and there was never a moment where the energy fell flat. The cast definitely seemed to enjoy themselves, as indicated by their enthusiasm, which made the audience enjoy the ride right along with them.