Peace, love, flowers, dance and an ongoing party fill Littleton’s Town Hall Arts Center with a mostly positive vibe for two hours as the cast of “Hair: the American Tribal Love-Rock Musical” takes one time-traveling to 1967, a trip conducted by director Nick Sugar and a strong cast.
The stage is covered with overlapped Oriental rugs, the backdrop a huge sun design. At the side, on steps, is a great four-piece ensemble, led by music director Donna Debreceni.
This production follows the recent joyous re-staging on Broadway by Diane Paulus and features much more interaction between cast and audience than the original — which fits with the general sweet spirit of the show.
The book and lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, set to a rock score by Gail McDermott, celebrate the youth movement and passions in a place that seems far, far away today.
Sugar’s cast, continually in motion and carefully choreographed to look casual, delivers the familiar songs and story with a fresh enthusiasm and strong voices, beginning with “Age of Aquarius” by Dionne (Ashley-Amber Harris) and tribe, led by the raffish Berger (Matt LaFontaine) and reprising “Good Morning Starshine” near the finale.
An amusing vignette is a visit to the tribe from famed anthropologist Margaret Mead (Rob Janzen) — “are you a hippie?”
Underlying the festive atmosphere is protest of the Vietnam War, which tore the country apart at that time — and still hangs heavy today. Tribe member Claude (Casey Andree) is drafted and eventually decides to report for duty instead of burning his draft card as many of his friends did. Also, drugs are omnipresent.
In 1967, “Hair,” the first rock musical, had music and spirit that swept the nation. Today, it seems like a treasured artifact — one wants to revisit again and again. Sugar comments in his notes, “Hair” tackled the most controversial issues facing our country. The cast of hippies echoed chants from the streets outside, protesting the Vietnam war, the draft, sexual repression, racism, environmental destruction and poverty through their message of peace and love. “No matter which side you stood on in the 1960s, or in 2013, our world is still trying to figure out how we can all learn to love one another.”
This lovingly presented production still speaks to us today — as discord flares in every direction.
When you go, be prepared for a smiling hippie in — or close to — your lap!
Costumes by Linda Morken are consistently raggedy and quirky, without being overdone; lighting and sound are well-designed and Sugar’s choreography is remarkable: seemingly casual, but carefully blocked so no one is knocked over in the almost constant, upbeat motion.
Some of the language would be classified as adult, so little ones might be better off at home, but teens should enjoy this slice of our history. “Hair” really is a piece of our national cultural fabric.