‘Hair:’ A new Age of Aquarius dawns at Weston Theater

By Bob Behr
©2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

For the first time in many months, the Weston Theater Company has opened the doors of the historic playhouse overlooking the village green. It’s a new beginning for the lovely old playhouse, and the iconic ’60s musical Hair is a perfect choice to celebrate the occasion.

Hair is celebratory. It’s also satirical, fast-moving, a little raunchy, and even at times heart-warming. In other words, it’s a good fit for a 2022 America still emerging from pandemic restrictions and anxieties.

Tomias Robinson takes a turn at the mic.Photo by Hubert Schriebl Photography.

With book and lyrics written by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, set to music by Galt MacDermot, the full name is Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. When first performed, Hair’s message – anti-war, pro-pot, pro-sex, anti-conformity – embodied American youth culture. And so, it was immensely popular in the ’60s and early ’70s, with long off-Broadway and Broadway runs, a best-selling album of its score, productions in more than a dozen countries, and a film adaptation.

When you go to Weston’s production of Hair, go early. At first you’ll wonder if the playhouse is under renovation. In fact, the theater’s been transformed into a quasi-industrial squatting place for a “tribe” of transient hippies.

As you and other theatergoers find your seats, ’60s flower children will start showing up too. Dressed in colorful, mismatched outfits, they’ll scramble up scaffolding where they will perch and preen like exotic birds. One or two other hippies will sashay into the aisles, tossing odd comments and beach balls at the audience.

Then Matt Rodin, playing Berger, the leader of the tribe, will step forward and, just like a burlesque emcee, he’ll deliver hilarious and outrageous commentary – some of it unscripted – while the last of your fellow audience members take their seats.

Soon, as the entire cast of 18 stands before you onstage and launches into motion with its anthem Aquarius – an anthem for many in the audience as well – you”ll realize the show has actually begun.

And for two hours, Hair is all song (some 30 in all) and nearly non-stop dance. Yes, it’s a full-throttled, high-energy musical.

Hair conveys its characters’ complicated lives in a unique way. There are sporadic lines of spoken dialogue and a few non-musical vignettes. But what jumps out right away is how, despite the appearance of chaos and improvised motion, this production is precisely orchestrated and choreographed to tell a complete story though song and movement.

Alanna Saunders belts one out. Rob Aft Photography.

For this achievement, high praise goes to director Susanna Gellert, choreographer Felicity Stiverson and music director Emma Weiss. Although many of Hair’s songs are full-cast ensemble numbers, with tons of talent on display, some cast members do step into the spotlight for solos.

Early in the show, Jamari Johnson Williams knocks it out of the park with two songs that challenge stereotypes about Black Americans. Megumi Nakamura’s Air is a real and surreal commentary on pollution. Emma Diner’s Frank Mills, about a young woman waiting in the park for a man she’s met only once, is tender and sad, conveying just how young some young people can be.

Michael Seltzer impersonating Margaret Mead is insanely funny. Nathan Salstone, who emerges as the play’s tragic character, leads the chorus for Hair  and other songs, creating a solid, ultimately sobering presence. And the amazing Alanna Saunders, who can sing, dance and play the sax, steps forward for several songs including  Easy To Be Hard and Good Morning Starshine.

Ragni and Rado’s lyrics are remarkably unusual and intelligent, a pleasure to listen to and think about (one song is actually an adaptation of lines from Hamlet). But at times, when singers seem to be competing with the back-up band, words are difficult to decipher.

Hair concludes with the cast singing Let the Sun Shine In, which, I suspect, will catch many audience members by surprise because of its pleading, desperate tone. These young actors have shaped a finale that leaves the ’60s behind and sends out a powerful and moving message for 2022.

Hair runs through Saturday, Aug.  13 with evening performances Tuesday to Saturday and matinees on Wednesday and Saturday. Adult tickets range from $50 to $74. “Pick Your Price” subscription tickets start at $39. Tickets are available by clicking here or by by calling the Weston Box Office at 802-824-5288.

Discounts are available for students, veterans and Vermont residents. Performances of Hair are at The Playhouse, located across from Weston’s Green.

All patrons are required to wear a mask while indoors and must show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test taken within 48 hours upon arrival. Please note: This production contains brief nudity, strobe and intense lighting effects, extended periods of darkness, and surprising loud noises.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeIn the ArtsReviews

About the Author: Andover resident Bob Behr is a retired English teacher and non-profit fundraiser. He has written about theater, food and local culture for community newspapers in Philadelphia and Vermont.

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.