As I walked into the Burlington Road Building (BRB) last Thursday night to see student theater group Ad Hoc Productions’ spring musical Hair, I encountered a very different type of stage than I had imagined.
The small Black Box Theater was devoid of any props and the dark walls and floor were covered with psychedelic black-lit scribbles, drawings and messages.
On the floor of the theater sat 17 people swaying, singing and beating on drums. All were dressed in typical ‘60s fashion: long skirts, headbands, bandanas, bell-bottom jeans, bare chests, vests and a particularly eye-catching pair of pink fuzzy pants worn by College senior TJ Chernow.
The musical Hair was written by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, with music by Galt MacDermot. College junior William Prater directed the production. The play will run this coming weekend from April 11 to 14 at 7:30 p.m. in the BRB’s Black Box Theater located on North Decatur Road.
Hair made a controversial Broadway debut in April of 1967 due to themes of open sexuality, explicit drug use, nudity and disregard for the American flag.
The musical follows the lives of a few anti-war activist teens living in New York during the Vietnam era. Although the music in Hair has survived the test of time, the play’s vitality has not.
Due to much of the adult material shown on HBO shows, as well as other media outlets, the controversial shock value of the play is no longer, well, shocking, and could even be considered tame. In addition, the musical lacks a cohesive and relatable plot line that might have helped the play endure throughout the years. Although the music has lived on, the play is probably only enjoyable if you lived through the era yourself — or have enjoyed a lovely marijuana cigarette prior to your viewing.
Despite the material they were working with, the student cast of Hair put on a highly entertaining and memorable show. Everything from the lighting to the costumes was reminiscent of the ‘60s.
After the audience filed into their seats, the swaying, seemingly stoned, tribe rose to their feet, and the band began to play a familiar tune. College senior Nina Charap, clad in a long yellow and red hippie frock, began to sing “Aquarius.” The tribe soon joined in, and the Black Box theater was filled with incredible harmonies and animated faces, which welcomed the audience back to an era where “you could be who you are [and] do whatever you want as long as you don’t hurt anyone.”
Though all the solos performed throughout the play were well sung, it was often difficult to hear each individual’s voice over the amplitude of the music. The tribe was strongest when singing together as a group; the harmonies in every song were well executed and melodic.
One of the most memorable songs of the play was “Frank Mills,” performed by College senior Rachel DelGaudio, who commanded the attention of the audience with her timid smile and powerful voice. DelGaudio, who portrayed the character of Crissy, sang about a boy named Frank Mills. She had met him at the movies but subsequently lost his address. After describing every aspect of his physical appearance, Crissy asks the audience to keep and eye out for Frank.
The play concluded with the infamous song “Let the Sun Shine In.” By the end of the song, the actors had invited the entirety of the audience on stage to dance and clap with them.
Prater summed up this experience in the show’s program notes.
“Come to our world. Live in our world. Love in our world. And don’t take the brown acid,” he wrote.
— Contact Arianna Skibell.