The musical Hair is certainly ripe for revival. With American politics deeply polarized over issues of race, immigration, the enviornment, women, and power, the desire to fight the Man is strong. Protesting is a thing again, as is taking opioids to deal with it all or not, as the case may be. The only things missing today are an unpopular war and a draft.
In the Wings production of the musical is well timed. It’s the perfect time to welcome back hippie hearthrobs, Berger and Claude, who plan to get off one more time before being shipped to Vietnam. Actually, Berger has no intention of going, but Claude can not bring himself to burn his draft card. The tribe of Aquarian-minded friends surround Claude with love and hope as he struggles with his dilemma. As they do so, they tell each other stories, explore their sexuality, and take drugs. We see their causes (anti-war, civil rights), hear their chants (“black, brown, yellow, red, let’s make love in a king size bed”), and watch how they deal with their unrequited love. Sheila pangs for the emotionally absent Berger, while Sheila-loving Claude is the object of Jeanie’s pregnant eye.
This show is high energy with good choreography and nice harmonies. As a collective, the group felt admirably coherent. Initially, things seemed a bit stiff, and it took the cast a few songs to gel into a unit. But, by the time Sodomy finished, I felt they were a solid ensemble. Everyone seemed more relaxed and comfortable with each other, leaning not just on each other, but into each other. Each actor had a chance at a solo and though their performances were slightly uneven talent-wise, all had much heart and took risks. Especially notable performances were given by Rosie Callaghan (Jeanie), Anton May (Hud), and Noelle Hannibal (Sheila). Also, Margaret Mead’s My Conviction was fun. Franco De Crescentis does a spirited job portraying the pansexual, imp-man Berger with all of his bravado and fury. As Claude, Mathieu Samson never quite nailed the Manchester accent. Other than that, his puppy dog sweetness and nice voice provided some balance.
My only serious gripe is costumes. Considering how much seems to go into building the ensemble and nailing the choreography, I wish more had gone into picking costumes. To keep the illusion of the age, the costumes matter. These costumes were too clean for a bunch of street hippies. Also, most seemed like they dug into their closet for something left over from last year’s Osheaga. I challenge them to find something more authentic, or at the very least, remove things that are contemporary, like Converse All Stars. I think the only people in the 1960s who wore them played professional basketball. Barefoot, brown sandals, or moccasins. Please.
This is a fine production that has grit and verve. As said, it is well-timed, even though the lingo, worldviews, and general being of hippies seems a little foreign today. Alongside our ideas of scalability, globalization, and technological solutions, we can certainly embrace the humanistic peace and grace from the flower children. This show reminds us that we should keep on fighting for what we believe in.
Hair continues on September 6-9 at the Mainline Theatre (3997 St. Laurent). Tickets are available HERE. $29/24.