Friday, August 08, 2008

Summer Awakening - Hair - Musical Review

Hair - Delacorte Theatre - The Public Theatre - Central Park, New York
Books and Lyrics by Gerome Ragni & James Rado, Music by Galt MacDermot, Directed by Diane Paulus
Runs until August 31st 2008.

As I noted before, you shouldn't even bother reading this review right now and just get yourself into the lineup in Central Park and just go see this show while you still can!

Hair is back and is more relevant than ever, much to director Diane Paulus' simple yet inspired direction that doesn't take the musical on any ironic, modern angle, but lays it bare as a look back in history to the times when a generation of change was still possible.

The Public Theatre introduced the world to the original Hair 41 years ago before it premiered on Broadway 40 years ago, and back then, there was an unliked President, an unnecessary war, and the people were looking for change. The Public Theatre re-introduces us back to Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical which had been denounced as dated and irrelevant but maybe it was just the way it had been presented before (in subsequent revivals, regional theatres and high school gyms), because the musical I saw on the circular grass stage at the Delacorte Theatre in the middle of Central Park with the trees and summer air as the backdrop was the PERFECT way to present Hair, and it touched my heart, my soul and reinvigorated my inspiration to change the world.

From the moment Patina Renea Miller stepped onto the stage to sing "Aquarius" with the other hippies crawling into the theatre from every angle possible, the theatre became electric, and the musical of vignettes that tells the stories of the hippies that try to rebel against the draft, the status quo, the bourgeois life and the Vietnam War was on speed (in both senses of the word), flowing from one scene and song to another in a hallucinatory, and often hilarious, theatrical presentation that painfully crescendos into its dark final cry-for-help anthem "Let The Sunshine In" (often mistaken for a lightened happy song, but here is presented in its proper context).

The top notch cast of youthful energy is led by the squeaky clean Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening) who embodies the confusion and wannabe hippie Claude from "Manchester, England" England (but is really from Flushing, New York) and he takes full emotional reign of trying to belong with his outcast friends and reject the normalcy of his parents, but ultimately, decides to join the army. (Christopher J. Hanke (Cry Baby) will take over the role on Aug. 17th as Groff has prior film commitments that will prevent him from finishing the extended run).

Groff may never really get too dirty and "hippie", but I think that's sort of the point, since he ultimately rejects the hippie tribe that he so ultimately tried to belong to (or at least, that's how I saw it).

Will Swenson (110 in the Shade) is terrifically limber as the extrovert Berger. (And boy will some of the audience get some of his extrovertness!)

Tommar Wilson and Bryce Ryness (above with Swenson) are great as Hud and Woof, with Ryness' Woof wonderfully balancing the gentle soul and comical amiableness with his crazy wolf cry. Theo Stockman is spectacularly memorable in multiple roles including audience member Hubert, the Nazi school principal and John Wilkes Booth. His counterpart Andrew Kober is equally amazing in multiple roles including Claude's father and audience member Hubert's wife. Saycon Sengbloh plays a lovely (and black AND female) Abraham Lincoln that is hilarious and outstanding.

Kacie Sheik (above, sister to Duncan) is a treasure as Jeanie, who has a nice introduction in "Air", alongside a wonderful Allison Case as Chrissy and Patina Renea Miller as Dionne (below).

I will say, as amazing as the first act was, ending with the all famous controversial scene where the cast completely disrobes (with incredibly subtle lighting that makes the moment all the more thoughtful), the second act is even more spectacular with an amazing hallucinatory dream that Claude partakes after smoking a doobie.

The battles of war, the dreams of the natives, the Vietnamese, the icons of American history, all flow from one song to another in a rush of scenes that never seem to stop, using the cast in brilliant and interchanging forms.

The entire cast from last years special 40th anniversary concert for Hair returned for this full scaled presentation with the exception of Karen Olivo who was already committed to the Tony winner In The Heights and while I loved that show, I think she missed out on a special experience here that Caren Lyn Manuel luckily got to take up. As Sheila, the wiser of the hippies that had already gone to university, Lyn Manuel breathes a slightly more mature yet still confused woman into the role that is in love with Berger.

Sheila leads the outrage against all that's happening with the war and the show balances between humourous bits between the emotional tanglements of the characters but the show is at its essential best when the entire group as a whole unites together against all the ills of humanity, and precisely the country that is sending them into the wrong direction. The youthful naiveness and positive outlook is always underwritten by a sadness and anger towards the world and this amazing production team of artists and actors never lets you forget the two during the spirited production. Karole Armitage's choreography is SENSATIONAL and would have been worth it alone to come even if the rest of the show hadn't worked, but it just adds to the brilliant layers that Paulus has structured around the unstructured musical.

There is just so much to love, learn and appreciate about this new production of Hair, from the simplicity of the set, (which even if this moves to Broadway, which yes, there are rumours of now, will never be recreated on an indoor stage), from the superb and effective lighting, to the power of hearing the full chorus and band sing the anthemic songs. This was how Hair was meant to be seen and heard and an unbelievable experience. It's the re-birth of the original rock musical and one that re-awakens the spirit of peace, love and joy that should never be forgotten again.

Hair - Delacorte Theatre - The Public Theatre - Central Park, New York - ***** (5 stars out of 5)

With Ato Blankson-Wood, Steel Burkhardt, Jackie Burns, Allison Case, Lauren Elder, Jonathan Groff, Allison Guinn, Anthony Hollock, Kaitlin Kiyan, Andrew Kober, Megan Lawrence, Nicole Lewis, Caren Lyn Manuel, Patina Renea Miller, John Moauro, Darius Nichols, Brandon Pearson, Megan Reinking, Paris Remillard, Bryce Ryness, Saycon Sengbloh, Maya Sharpe, Kacie Sheik, Theo Stockman, Will Swenson, and Tommar Wilson.

And yes... I did get pulled on stage to dance in the life affirming encore!


Plus, details about how to get tickets again after the jump. Plus the other reviews from more "legit" critics are rolling in.

Shows run Tuesday - Sunday evenings at 8pm. Show is approximately 2 hrs 30 min.
July 22 - August 31
*No distribution/Stand-by line only on: August 7
Limited ticket distribution on: July 30, August 8, August 12

The other reviews are rolling in

New York Times is Positive.
Theatremania is Positive.
AMNY 4 out of 4
Variety is Positve.
The New York Observer is Positive.
NY Sun is Positive.
Newsday is Positive.
NY1 is Positive.
New Jersey Star Ledger is Positive.
The Associated Press (via Canada's Macleans) is Positive.
NY Post 3.5 out of 4
New York Magazine is Positive.

Talkin' Broadway is the only negative so far.

Tickets are available (legally) in three ways. (Four if you count the standby line)

1. Make a $165 dontation as a Summer Supporter and get a ticket. (Make a $165 tax-deductible contribution and receive a reserved seat to Hair. These reserved seats are only available for a limited time to ensure that the highest number of free seats are available for the general public on the day of the show.)

2. Line up for free tickets in the park.
Pick up your FREE tickets to Shakespeare in the Park on the day of the performance beginning at 1PM at The Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The closest entrances to the Delacorte are at 81st Street and Central Park West or 79th Street and Fifth Avenue. There is a limit of 2 tickets per person.
Public Theater staff will begin monitoring the free ticket lines before or by 8:00AM on performance days. The line monitor will explain and enforce the procedures and policies regarding ticket distribution. Such policies were designed to maximize fairness for all fans of Shakespeare in the Park.

• No cutting, jumping, or saving spots in line is permitted. The entire party must arrive together.
• If you leave the ticket line for any extended period of time, for any reason, you will forfeit your place in line
• You must line up along the path designated by Shakespeare in Park and The Parks Department
• Any disagreements about the order or policies of the ticket line will be settled at the discretion of Public Theater management.
• Tickets will be distributed starting at 1:00PM, on performance days.
o Maximum 2 tickets per person
o Subject to availability
• Public Theater management makes every best effort to ensure fair and equal treatment for everyone on the line and has the right to remove any persons who disrupts or negatively affects other patrons’ experience on the lines or in the audience.
• Public Theater management has tried to anticipate all foreseeable situations that require line policies but may need to occasionally issue rules not specified here should an unusual situation arise.

While the majority of free tickets for Shakespeare in the Park are distributed via the free line at the Delacorte Theater, a limited number of tickets will be available the day of each performance online. Specific locations for senior and handicapped accessible seats are not available through the virtual ticket line.

Register anytime at PUBLICTHEATER.ORG and then log on between midnight and 1PM on the day of the performance you want to see to submit a request for up to two tickets. You must log-on again between 1PM-6PM to see if you have been selected to receive a pair of tickets. People are chosen at random, not in the order requests are received.

Tickets will be held at The Delacorte Theater Box Office under the name that you used for registration. Pick-up will begin one hour prior to curtain. Tickets not picked up by 1/2 hour prior to curtain will be released to the stand-by line. VALID PHOTO ID OF PERSON WHO REGISTERED/SIGNED IN IS REQUIRED.

Apparently there are only about 50 - 100 tickets available online though and it is harder than you think.

4. STAND-BY CANCELLATION LINE - Any unclaimed lottery tickets or returned tickets will be distributed before the show. It can be at any time but usually happens at about 7:55pm up to 8pm and depending on the day, can be very few tickets or a lot. (Usually days that looks forecasted to rain have more tickets available). I would say start lining up at the theatre around 6pm or 6:30 pm at the latest. Tickets are 1 per person and if you are in groups of 2 or more, the tickets may not be guaranteed to be together.

WARNING: Rain Policy
In the event of rain the start of the performance may be delayed. However, the production will be performed if and when it is possible to do so. If a performance is canceled due to rain or any other reason, tickets are not valid for re-issue or exchange.

WARNING: Ticket Policy: HAIR tickets purchased from unauthorized sources (e.g. Craigslist, eBay, and other resale venues) may have been lost, stolen or obtained improperly. The Public Theater/ Shakespeare in the Park has the right to deny admission to the holder of these tickets. Any ticket purchases from unauthorized sources are at the buyers’ own risk and do not guarantee seats at a performance.

PLEASE DON'T BUY FROM CRAIGSLIST OR ANYTHING. You're just feeding into the crack addicts.


Esther said...

Wow, what a terrific review! I saw Hair once, indoors, a long time ago. But it sounds like there's nothing like seeing it outside on a warm summer night in the park! Thanks for sharing all the details.

mB said...

God bless the online lottery!

No waiting in line!
No hassle!

But still great seats with which I managed to enjoy this show at its greatest!

Seldom do I leave humming and dancing all the way to the subway.

Twas quite unbelievable. Kinda wanna watch it again, and if I get tix again, I might just have to :D