Black! White! Yellow! Red! Copulate in a king-sized bed! Peace! Love! Share! Give! See Hair at StillPointe Theatre Initiative! The revolutionary Tribal Love-Rock Musical, with Book and Lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, and Music by Galt MacDermot, takes to the stage at Strand Theater as an end of summer blaze of musical glory. Directed by Amanda J. Rife with Musical Direction provided by Stacey Antoine, this groovy, feel-good, ‘power-to-the-people’ musical is the perfect way to enjoy the remainder of the summer theatrical season.
The set itself nestled in the confines of the intimate Strand Theatre becomes a character all its own thanks to Scenic Artist Amanda J. Rifes. With segments of wall covered in decoupage wallpaper bits and the larger than life of the Bukowski draft card in hand; the atmosphere is honed into the era:Amanda J. Rifein the streets of Baltimore is radiant and present. The ingenious use of the space below the overhang and the space above gives the setting a multi-dimensional play space allowing members of the tribe to perform all over, low and high. Ways’ design brings the audience into the tribe; you’re not longer just watching the be-in and are with them and feeling that psychedelic energy radiate from member to member. It’s a stunning set to look on and you could easily spend the whole show just taking in all the trippy details, especially the bubbling hookah.
Costume Designer Jayne Harris doesn’t stifle the flow of the groovy reality in which the play is set. Her authentic threads have a vintage look to them and really enhance that mellow feeling of peace and love. From the stringy fringes to the bandanas and huge hair looks, Harris really has a handle on how to keep the hippies looking happy. Everyone has a unique look, no two hippies the tribe look quite the same; it’s really spacey and quite enchanting to take in, completing the overall ambiance of the show.
Musical Director Stacey Antoine creates a series of stunning emotional sounds from the tribe. Powerhouse numbers like “Aquarius” and “Let The Sunshine In” are belting with such force emotions that it shakes the theatre with rapture, creating a palpable pulse that surges through the audience. Antoine creates the perfect balance in the juxtaposition of these intense numbers and more subdued numbers like “Hashish,” which is fluidly surreal and “Good Morning Starshine,” which is sublime. Antoine’s overall focused work makes for a brilliant ensemble that really radiates the truth, love, harmony and light behind the music of this production.
The groove just keeps flowing as the individual performers really showcase their talents. Dionne (Shannon L. Graham) has a magnificent and powerful sound, featured in both the opening number and again in trio for “White Boys.” Joining Graham for the irreverent sexual song is Lawrence D. Bryant IV (a member of the tribe) with his smooth and impressive higher range. The opposing number “Black Boys” features Suzannah (Zoe Kanter) and Walter (Jon Kevin Lazarus) really getting their vocal groove on. Kanter has a brilliant belting voice that is borderline operatic, which can be heard throughout the production.
A crystalline sound comes from Woof (Ben Shaver) when he starts crooning in “Sodomy.” It’s an intense sound that just sweeps you up into the gentle atmosphere of everything that’s floating around in the air. And while Shaver has the melody, Hud (Terrence Pope) has got the rhythm. Featured in “I’m Black” and various other numbers throughout the show, Pope adds a little flare to his dancing as well as his singing. And rounding out the incredible sounds is Shelia (Missy Wimbish). With a deep yet passionate sound in her voice for songs like “I Believe In Love,” you can feel her feelings as if they were radiating from her lips like sunbeams onto the flowers.
Berger (Adam Cooley) invites the audience into the menagerie of hippy culture and feel-good moments. Cooley masters the groovy lingo and is personable with the audience in a way that just makes everyone feel welcome. When he gets going with “Donna” he’s pumped full of enthusiasm and his body really engages the trippy beat of the song. Sharing the title number “Hair” with Claude (Bobby Libby) the enthusiasm only multiplies tenfold as their bromance blossoms under the beat of this song.
Libby, as the passionately conflicted Claude Bukowski, is stellar in the role. Each of his songs is filled with a soulful yearning to find his place in life. His main solo “I’ve Got Life” is imbued with an organic and heartfelt reality of his soul; an honesty that radiates from his voice in this and his other numbers. Libby is particularly emotionally expressive and uses his full body to do so; letting what he reflects on his face radiate through his entire body so that we can experience this difficult transition with him. “Where Do I Go” is a haunting number that digs even deeper into the depths of his psyche and really brings home the message of the show as a whole.
Bring your beads! And be ready to burn your draft card! Oh— and don’t forget to keep an eye out for M. Mead (Danielle Robinette) who might just try to insinuate her ballsy-self into a photograph with the tribe; watch out for that “hip-to-be-square.” And go see, feel, embrace, and love, the musical, Hair!
Running Time: Two hours, with one intermission.
Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical plays through August 24, 2013 at StillPointe Theatre Initiative at Strand Theater Company—1823 North Charles Street, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call (443) 874-4917, or purchase them online.