Hair never fails to please – pretty boys and girls dancing around onstage, all enthusiasm and skin, cheerfully swaying stoned-ly along with whatever the music happens to be when they’re not engaged in some legitimate stage business. Some of the anthems are famous, by now, and the audience can usually be counted upon to sing along (or at least clap at whatever level of rhythm is available to them) by the time “Let The Sun Shine In” comes around at the end of the show and audience members are invited to join the cast onstage for a dancefest.
This touring production has all that and more. There’s little chance that a subscriber to a Mirvish season could fail to leave feeling like they’d enjoyed a rousing (and slightly naughty) two hours, punctuated with the entirely naked cast ! Even if they do appear in the most feature-disguising lighting cue I have ever seen. It’s full of energy, enough vocal runs to please even the most die-hard modern Glee fan, and there’s a the thrill of a better-than-average chance of getting briefly pet by the cast if you’re anywhere near the aisle. Pretty colours abound. Hairstyles are groovy.
To be honest, it wasn’t quite enough for me. There are some ways in which this production seems unfortunately one-dimentional, as though the cast cannot really commit to either good, old-fashioned dirtiness or honest and well-deserved anger about the war. It’s fun and frolicsome, but mostly as though they’re playing at being naughty: more Hooters than House of Lancaster, more paintball than #Occupy. That series of contrasts, that dimentionality, gives Hair something more than just its great Galt MacDermot score.
There are exceptions. Ryan Link, as Woof, is bewilderedly sexy and cheerfully bicurious with great, grounded dance strength in the group scenes. He’s well cast, as is Paris Remillard as Claude, trying to tune in and drop out but unable to escape the prospect of finally making his parents proud of him. It’s such a classic conundrum, and Remillard doesn’t overplay. There’s a lot to be said for a little quietness in this maelstrom of sound and light and movement.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a bow and a hurrah to Will Blum, as Claude’s Dad but especially as Margaret Mead. The part is a scene stealer, and he milks it for every drop.
I wish I could say as much for Steel Burkhardt as Berger, in whom I wanted all the animal magnetism Berger deserves, enough to seduce and charm everyone. He’s full of pelvic thrusts and audience banter and the non-consensual petting of every head of hair in the aisle, but he doesn’t seem like he wants to misbehave, he seems like he wants to be known to have misbehaved before.
As spectacle, Hair works – music, powerful voices, lots of pretty lights and mildly salacious moments. There’s plenty for the casual theatregoer to enjoy, and the production doesn’t stint on flash – all the costumes look great, the choreography is tight and the vocal music approaches the texture and richness of chorale more than once. Buckskin fringe is employed to great effect, as it the reverb button. I might have missed some of the more complex notes, but I’ll admit it: at the end, I was hip-bumping my date in the aisle, happy and full of good cheer.
– Hair is playing at the Royal Alexandra Theatre (260 King Street West) until 30 December.
– Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 8pm, and quite a few matinees, including Christmas Eve.
– Ticket prices range from $59.00 – $130.00 with some day-of rush tickets available at the box office for $25 in cash only
– Tickets are available by phone at 416 872-1212 or online
Photo of the company by Joan MacDonald