Make peace! Not war! Harmony and understanding! It’s all about flowers and love! It’s a live “be-in” at The Lyric Opera House in Baltimore this weekend as The 2013 National Tour of Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical sets up camp with their messages of peace. The pulse of this electrifying performance strikes chords deep within the audience, of generations young and old; a poignant message that speaks volumes to the masses while shaking up the experience with live in-your-face interface that makes for one unforgettable evening. Directed by Tony-Award Winner Diane Paulus, the vibrant waves of groovy will unfurl as the planets align and pull you right back into 1967 where it’s all about the love!
Costume Designer Michael McDonald sets the trends with all the bright crazy colors of the 60’s splashed all throughout the palette of his design work. McDonald hits the fashionable styles of the hippy era right on the head with the long flared bellbottoms, free-flowing skirts and rainbow-riffic tie-dye threads for everyone. We’ve got long flowing hair and teased up afros all around and of course there are beads, furs, and a good deal of ‘freeing’ clothing aplenty. McDonald sets the psychedelic tone for Berger in particular; that little bearskin loin cloth reminding us all how truly wild and crazy those love-ins can be.
Musical Director and Orchestra Conductor Lilli Wosk brings the good vibrations full circle with the orchestra live on stage mounted atop an old worn out army truck. Having the live sound to back some of these truly trippy numbers right where you can see it enhances the experience tenfold. Wosk coaxes a seriously serene sound from the orchestra for numbers like “Hare Krishna” while turning on an electrical parade for more up-tempo numbers like “I Got Life.”
The thing that gets everyone’s blood flowing is the organic crazy waves of natural dance that flow through the ‘Tribe.’ Choreographer Karole Armitage provides high-energy routines that include a lot of freeing movements, incorporating whole body shifts to give the ensemble this au natural feel to them. Many of the numbers like “Ain’t Got No” have the Tribe popping their bodies all over the stage to the rhythm of the music, and this overall feeling of oneness between music and dancer is what really drives the motivation of this musical rebellion.
Director Diane Paulus generates the true feelings of the 1960’s with all the love and protest and group unity without all of the guns. Half the cast spends more time in the audience singing and dancing with those of us watching than they do on the stage and for any other show this might seem out of place or at the very least bizarre but for this production it dissolves the divide between watcher and doer and makes the audience a part of what’s happening; which in and of itself is an incredible experience. The collective energy that flows through the group is astounding, they never miss a beat and they’re always on edge ready to roll with the flow.
But the music is where it’s at. With an ensemble labeled as ‘the tribe’ this group has some extremely powerful voices mingled into it. “Walking in Space” proves to be one of the most incredible ensemble numbers as they are all on this slow-burning vocal rocket that is blasting off into the powerful outer orbits of the musical realm. The energy behind the ensemble sound never fades and is particularly strong for numbers like “Hair” and “Aquarius.”
The soloists, both their incredibly talented singing voices and their crazy personalities are what drives this performance to one of the most incredible successes to take to the stage in the Baltimore theatre scene in quite some time. Having just a quick bit part, Margaret Mead (Davey Rosenberg) brings a belt that could outblast a nuclear warhead during “My Conviction.” And Jeanie (Merissa Czyz) has a spunky personality that while she doesn’t do much singing you hear her voice coming from a mile away.
Dionne (Danyel Fulton) is the true powerhouse mother of vocal prowess in this production. Fulton has true raw power in its rarest form when she belts out numbers like “Aquarius” leading the rest of the tribe into an almost tantric rhythmic fusion of bodies and voices that rumbles out to the audience, making us all want to join in. You can pick her powerful sound out in every number, and watch out for her sassy fiery attitude during “White Boys” as she trips and flips her vocals into a whole new mode of passion.
Shelia (Mary Kate Morrissey) is the singing sensation when it comes to pure emotion. “I Believe In Love” is one of the most stunning numbers performed during the show and she blasts a sound that is loaded with the conviction of her believes clear up to the rafters of the opera house. Morrissey is fierce and has an incredible range in her vastly expressive singing ability. Her rebellious side is not without a cause and she loves hard and deep with the rest of them.
And then there’s the boys. Four of them who really spark our interests; Hud (Carl James) Woof (Jason Moody) Berger (Brian Crawford Scott) and Claude (Noah Plomgren.) They don’t get to harmonize often but when they do for songs like “I’m Black” and “Ain’t Got No” they create pitch perfect harmony.
James is the epitome of moxy rolled up into human form and commands his presence on the stage for numbers like “I’m Black” and “Yes I’s Finished.” Whereas Moody starts out as the innocent with this enchanting nubile vocal sound for “Sodomy” but quickly grows into a free-loving spirit with the rest of them.
Brian Crawford Scott, playing the notorious Berger, is more like the show’s on-again-off-again tour guide. He spends almost as much time down in the audience playing around and having a good time as he does up on stage goofing around with the other performers. Scott has a naturally vivacious energy about him and really zeros in on how to have fun as much as possible. His facial expressions are zany and really invite the audience to share in the trippy experiences he has. “Going Down” is his big solo number that will keep you jumping in your seat and clapping right along with him.
Scott and Plomgren share a beautiful bromance throughout the production and make a perfect duet in “Hair.” Where Scott’s character is the wild rebel Plomgren is just trying to belong. He has dreams that echo into his song, particularly his haunting and harrowing solo at the end of act I, “Where Do I Go?” Plomgren is a live wire that has a trippy hippy power for numbers like “I Got Life” where he really gets everyone on stage as well as in the audience pumping with vim and vigor. His vocal ability to switch from crazy rocker to pure songbird tones are breathtaking and he’ll bring tears to your eyes for “The Flesh Failures.” Plomgren embodies the spirit of the uncertain child of the 60’s to perfection, just wanting to find his place in the world— and he finds it as the sensational lead in this production.
So let your hair down, and let the sunshine in, you won’t have another chance quite like this! And be sure to stick around for the end so you can come up and dance around on the stage with all the hippies of Hair, that’s an experience that is truly memorable.
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes with one 25 minute intermission.
Hair plays through tonight March 9, 2013 at The Patricia and Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric— 110 W. Mount Royale Avenue, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets call (410) 900-1150 or purchase them online.