by DICK KEREKES
What a joyous, deeply moving and funny piece of work is the Players by the Sea production of Hair that runs through August 15th at 109 Sixth Street North, Jacksonville Beach. Some tickets are still “hair” today, but will be gone tomorrow unless you call 249-0289.
Under Lee Hamby and Barbara Colaciello Williams’ expert direction and the exciting choreography by Niki Stokes, a terrific cast of 23 bring the 1960 Broadway rock musical to raucous life. The performers found the humor, pathos, social turbulence and the sensuality in the James Rado and Gerome Ragni story about l960s hippies who seek to affirm love and life during the Vietnam War.
Hair is obviously a musical, but not in the typical sense of the word. “Musical” usually implies a story with some songs mixed in. In Hair there is a lot of music with only a thin but poignant plot worked in.
The main plot concerns Claude (Daniel Austin), a confused and idealistic hippie from Queens, but obsessed with things British (hence the song Manchester England), who makes the journey from free love heaven to be being drafted in to the military.
Claude gets advice from his flower children family; Berger (Vincent Teschel) the rambunctious, ultra charismatic, who outlandishly “moons” the audience, Sheila (Juliet Fixel), romantically torn, cop hating female, Woof (Sam Willis) a gender confused clown of a guy, Jeanie (Jaclyn Hoffman) a drifting and vulnerable sassy lady, Hud (Steve Anderson Jr), the defiant and soulful one, and Crissy (Joanna Yeakel), who is optimistic yet impatient.
The other sixteen actors on stage are the Tribe who are almost on the stage the entire time, constantly moving, dancing and singing. Several of the Tribe who perform solos include, Renee Freeman, Miranda Lawson, and Aaron Marshall. Walter Ware III, a tribe member, portrays the short visit of Margaret Mead, in drag as she lectures the young hippies, in one of the most humorous scenes in the show.
Also in the tribe are Taisir El-Souessi, Evan Hayes, Clenton Hollinger, Lisa LaGrande, Rachel Jones,Shannon Jones, Zach Kanner, Ron Shreve, Brooks Studier, Caiti Wiggins, Luke Williams and Matt Young.
Not only does Hair have an outstanding cast, but the rest of the team is top notch as well. The Hair Orchestra, lead by Musical Director Samuel Clein on piano and as conductor is excellent. Joining Mr. Clein are Jarrett Carter (guitar), Jeremy Gray(bass), Ricardo Lastrapes (reeds), Larsia Melkumova (brass) and Evan Peterson (percussion).
The Directors, Ms. Hamby and Ms. Williams, designed the set consisting of walls covered with colorful sheets, with the main set piece being the scaffolding from one end of the stage to the other. Light Designer Abbie Malkewitz created the evocative and dynamic lighting that showcased era-correct colorful costumes designed by Lee Hamby.
This is very much an ensemble effort and you can feel the energy flow off the stage (well actually they bring it right into the audience on several occasions). The show is so well constructed, in my opinion, so we get to know something about each ensemble member and their problems, issues and individual histories.
It does not matter if you were not around in l967, when this show ran over l800 performances on Broadway, the songs and music will have you humming along because they are so infectious. Songs like “Aquarius”, “Manchester England”, “I Believe in Love”, “I got Life”, “Hair”, “Easy to Be Hard”, “Frank Mills” “Where Do I Go” and “Good Morning Sunshine”. The exceptional voices, and I mean ALL of them, are electrifying especially in the imitate atmosphere at Players by the Sea.
This is a show that is still so relevant today. War and drugs are still around, and considering the state of the economy, today’s teenagers face uncertain futures as did the l960s young adults who so embraced this show . This is an adult show. Oh sure it has music, fashions, but also politics, sex, drugs, language and of course that famous naked first act curtain. (Done skillfully by this cast!)
Thanks to the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville and The Community Foundation’s Tom Nehl Fund for their assistance in funding to keep the admission price at a bargain $25.00. Hair had the greatest advance sale of tickets of any production that I can recall, and you can bet the final two held over performances on the l4th and l5th are going fast. P.S, wear hippie attire (if you have any). It is accepted and in fact encouraged. Oh, let the sun shine, don’t miss this classic musical.
by DICK KEREKES