Remember the good ol’ days when all a teenage boy had to worry about was being drafted into the military, trained to kill, shipped off to a foreign land, and die defending corporate interests in the name of democracy? Well, you can relive the grand old ‘60’s by attending the 6th Street Playhouse production of the musical Hair, running now in Santa Rosa through Mar 6.
Broadway didn’t know what hit it back in 1968 when the self-described ‘American Tribal Love-Rock Musical’ opened on the Great White Way. It ended up running for 1750 performances and being nominated for 1969’s Best Musical Tony (It lost to its antithesis – 1776.) It spawned a number of top-ten hits that remain in rotation on classic rock stations today.
Director Aja Gianola-Norris has assembled a beautifully diverse cast to tell the story of a group of politically-active hippies living a bohemian life in the tumultuous sixties. As the audience was seated, the troupe wandered the stage, banged on bongos, swayed in the air, and blew soap bubbles into the house (As my seatmate noted, that may not be the best choice in the age of COVID.)
The show officially began with the robust delivery of “The Age of Aquarius” led by Serena Elize Flores. As the music faded and the audience settled in, the characters introduced themselves via songs that made it clear it would not be a Disney musical.
Berger (Ezra Hernandez) pines for a 16-year-old virgin (“Donna”). The tribe sings of a variety of drugs (“Hashish”). Woof (Noah Sternhill) croons about “Sodomy”. Hud (Jourdán Olivier-Verdé) defiantly delivers a series of ugly racial epithets (“Colored Spade”) that elicited gasps, but don’t worry folks, you’ll hear “Good Morning, Starshine” and “Let the Sunshine In” by the show’s end.
The music is draped around a bare-bones story about tribe leader Clyde (Jamin Jollo) struggling to decide whether to report for the draft or dodge it. The other hot-button issues of the sixties (the sexual revolution, environmentalism, race, religion, etc.) are all addressed. Interesting to note how little some things have changed.
The entire ensemble is critically engaged throughout the show through both song and story. The aforementioned cast plus Gillian Eichenberger, Theo Olson, Alanna Weatherby, David Lee Hall, Keene Hudson, Lindsay John, Tyehimba Kokayi, Nicole Ward MacDonald, Lynnea Mackey, and Peri Zoe Yildrim-Stanley comprise a flower-powerful group.
Sam Transleau has designed a very functional set on a raked stage with the zodiac at its center. Costume Designer Mae Haegerty Matos had a field day dressing the cast, as did Hair/Wig/Makeup Designer Roxie Johnson. Lucas Sherman assuredly guided a six-piece orchestra through the raucous score.
Sound continues to be an Achilles heel at 6th Street Playhouse productions. A sound designer is rarely credited and often needed. The artists and audiences deserve better.
Hair is a well-performed, good looking, and definitely adult show, with mature themes and content (including nudity.) Exclamations of “Oh!” and “Jeez!” could be heard from the audience throughout.
But no one left at intermission.
‘Hair’ runs through Mar. 6 in the GK Hardt Theatre at 6th Street Playhouse, 52 W. Sixth Street, Santa Rosa. Thur., Fri. & Sat., 7:30pm; Sat. & Sun., 2pm. $22–$38. 707.523.4185. 6thstreeetplayhouse.com. Proof of vaccination and masking are required to attend.
Photos by Eric Chazankin
This review originally appeared in an edited version in the North Bay Bohemian.