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Review: ‘Hair’ Opens IUT Season

If the 'Occupy Movement' really wants a focus, it might try hinting at the possibility of a draft!

three cast members sing with the tribe

Photo: John Kinzer

Ethan Carpenter, Chanette Batey and CJ Pawlikowski, a strong trio in the midst of the tribe.

Event Information

Hair

musical with book and lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, music by Galt MacDermot


Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center

October 7-8 and 11-15, 2011

IU Auditorium Box Office

Hair at IU’s Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center is very well staged, choreographed, acted, danced and sung. The production nicely mixes the show’s audacity and innocence, in the hands of a talented and skilled cast.

Patricia Wilcox, the director and choreographer for Hair, calls the play a time capsule from the sixties. Tuesday night there was a mixed audience with plenty of older people matching the drama against their memories of those turbulent times, along with plenty of young people for whom the musical will become the way they’ll think about those times.

As time capsules go, it’s not bad. Gerome Ragni and James Rado’s book and lyrics capture the tensions and the language of the youth movement. Galt MacDermot’s music still resonates as a sound of the times.

Charnette Batey set the tone for the evening with a strong performance of “Aquarius.” Ethan Carpenter was the grooviest of the tribe, and Berger gave us a raunchy “Donna.” With “Sodomy,” William Reilly reminded us of all those perfectly clinical words that are so hard to say out loud. CJ Pawlikowski’s “I Got Life” set the energetic tone for the pure-souled Claude.

Kelsey Shaw, as the pregnant groupie Jeanie; Chloe Williamson, as Sheila, the most political of the Tribe; and Francesca Arostegui, as the pathetic singer of “ Frank Mills,” reminded us that women in the sixties were still very much finding their way even in supposedly equal-itarian, free societies.

The nude scene that ends the first act… ah, yes! Well, there it was, with the whole cast displaying all the things you’d expect, in better order than most randomly selected groups could muster. Hair shows its basic insecurity about utopia, as, at this moment of apparent oneness and openness, the cast is quietly singing “Where Do I Go.”

In the second act, I especially enjoyed the wild theatrics of Claude’s second act dream. It moved from jungle fighting GIs through a mini-history of America. Large puppets and outlandish costumes were the rule. There were Indians, the British, the Colonial soldiers, a large papier maché-headed General Grant, an African-American female Abe Lincoln, and cotton picking slaves. A little later they were joined by Nathan Mittleman as a very tall Scarlett O’Hara, accompanied by a rather diminutive Rhett Butler. It was quite a delightful mini drama.

Patricia Wilcox’s direction and choreography for Hair puts a premium on group energy, but with plenty of attention to small details and character development. Individual efforts are nicely showcased in settings that never hinder the show’s forward motion. The solid musical direction is by Jay Ivey. Varied and interesting costumes that look as if they could have come right off the streets in the ’60s are by Colleen Alexis Metzger.

Hair at the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center has evening performances this week and wraps up Saturday with a two o’clock matinee followed by the finale at 7:30. If the crowd Tuesday night was any indication, tickets may be scarce.

At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker.

George Walker

After completing an M.A.T. degree in English at Indiana University, George Walker began announcing for WFIU in 1967. Along with regularly hosting classical music shows, he interviews artists and reviews plays and operas.

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