‘Hair’ at Woodrow Wilson High School

Lorin Kayla Holland (Dionne), in all her tranquil beauty, set the mood perfectly for Wilson High School’s production of Hair. Action jumps in as Kellik Dawson (Hud), and Zac Nachbar-Seckel (Berger) hit the stage. This dynamic duo has it all; vocals; dance steps; acting, and; the illusive ability to immediately connect with the audience. Teo Topa (Woof) and Ben Topa (Claude) follow closely. Another shining light is Joey Schulman (Sheila), who blossoms as an earnest humanist with a rich alto voice and ability to capture the audience.

The cast of 'Hair.' Photo by Jill Roos.
The cast of ‘Hair.’ Photo by Jill Roos.

At first I was struck by the cleverness of the drop-step apron constructed in front of the stage. It is less enchanting as the first Act continues; serving as a place for soloists in this rock opera to jump down and perform, separating from the large “tribe” back on the stage. Each of the leads had skills strong enough to not need this extra separation.

Choreographer Nikki Gambhir does a wonderful job keeping the entire tribe moving on, off and around the stage. Gambhir’s use of the aisles as entry and exit points, common in most full professional productions of Hair, was particularly effective in Wilson’s smaller space. The effectiveness is enhanced by the sound team amping up the volume of the actors in the aisles. Sound effects are designed by Emory Harkins with Brian Keyes operating the board.

The opening moments of Act I allowed the audience to take in the authentic costume design by Dan Iwaniec. The variety was impressive; it was as if each cast member asked their parents for their favorite hippie clothes lovingly tossed into the back of the closet.

Iwaniec’s set design is once again true to the era and to the hippie aesthetic of  the time. Fortunately, the scenery did not interrupt the view of the Hair band led by bass Matt Jewell, Nick Blackwell on keyboard, Drew Glick on guitar, Quinn Heinrich on clarinet, and Reuben Dubester on drums. The ensemble kept up the flow of music while never dominating the vocalists. The beginning licks of many songs instantly triggered memories of what was to come.

Act II brings with it a huge jump of energy, better physical and emotional integration of the leads with the “tribe,” and the first obvious use of special lighting design by Max Doolittle. During the New York blackout scene, the use of flashlights by some members of the cast was particularly effective. Equally effective is the always present closing scene of Claude, in full military dress, laying dead in the middle of the stage.

The cast of 'Hair.' Photo by Jill Roos.
The cast of ‘Hair.’ Photo by Jill Roos.

The real treat of the night was the singing of The Schulman sisters. Joey delivered a passionate “I Believe in Love, and Eva Schulman delivered a great rendition of “Air” in the first act, then, with her sister Joey, sang a rousing “Good Morning Starshine” in the Second Act. The blending of their voices rocked the house.

Harriet Bronstein and Jill Roos did a magnificent job wrestling this almost 50-year old cult classic into a production that was both fresh and nostalgic. The large tribe of talented singers and dancers all contributed in making the magic of musical theater at Woodrow Wilson High School’s electric production of Hair.

Running Time: Two hours, with one-15 minute intermission.

Hair plays through November 21, 2o15 at Woodrow Wilson High School – 3950 Chesapeake Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, buy them at the door, or email wilsondramatickets@gmail.com.

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