The AT&T Performing Arts Lexus Broadway Series season opener HAIR is a high-energy rollicking “don’t judge me” good time. The characters skillfully embrace the audience with their 1967 hippie love fest mindset disrupted by the Vietnam War. It is easy to relate with the push back mood of the 1960s. Fed up with war, pollution, political assassinations and inequality, America’s youth demands a change. There are plenty of laughs in this musical, but it soulfully never forgets its humanity and loss of innocence.
HAIR introduces us to a hippie tribe trying to figure out their lives after shunning the status quo. By replacing war with peace, hate with love, prejudice with equality and attempting communal living, the group soon realizes that making it in the real world is hard. Idealism is easier in theory than actually living in the streets, facing a draft and unplanned pregnancy.
The superb cast possesses a wide range of talent and depth. HAIR weaves a magic spell beginning with the now famous song “Aquarius” and closing with “Flesh Failures/Let the Sun Shine In.” Phyre Hawkins’ (Dionne) powerful voice brought “Aquarius” to life. Steel Burkhardt (Berger) steals the show with his wild spirit and cheekiness (literally and figuratively). Especially notable is Caren Lyn Tackett’s (Sheila) beautiful voice and phrasing in “Easy to be Hard.”
After decimating conventional rules, Burkhardt leads the tribe with a hilarious unapologetic tone. He opens with “Donna” and is looking for a 16-year-old virgin. He teases the audience including jumping up on the arms of an audience member’s chair while dancing. He gets a dollar tucked into his fringed leather thong from an embarrassed woman of a certain age.
But at the heart of HAIR is Paris Remillard (Claude) as an innocent carefree hippie who faces a life altering decision. When he refuses to burn his draft card and inlists, he faces dire consequences. Going against his true feelings and beliefs, he is torn between his family’s desires and ambivalent feelings about his country’s politics. Remillard brilliantly plays an innocent stoner forced into a grownup world.
HAIR is not a modest or shy production and the choreography is sexy and outrageous. The live band is also a star of the show filling the Winspear with incredible sound. The actors possess passion, great comic timing and intelligence. Each character is lovable and takes the audience on a wild ride including pulling some members into the action. Running up and down the aisles, jumping on the arms of chairs and breaking the fourth wall is all part of the fun.
This is one of the best national touring productions in years. The Lexus Broadway Series has one hit after another including Spring Awakening, Rock of Ages, Billy Elliot and now HAIR to name only a few. If HAIR is any indication, this season promises to be one of the Lexus Broadway Series best.