'Hair' comes back, in all its trippy glory
By Kawehi Haug
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
Manoa Valley Theatre is doing "Hair."
Let the questions flow.
That's kind of, um ... risque, isn't it? And didn't acid — and its trips — play a pretty strong supporting role?Don't they get (whispering) naked in that show?
Yes. Yes. And yes.
And Manoa Valley Theatre's version of the 1967 Broadway musical about hairy, nude, free-loving youth in revolt, which opens Thursday, is staying true to the original. Minus the nudity.
"In a small community like this, where there might be teachers on stage or there might be students on stage, the concern was that we don't want to make anyone too uncomfortable," said Rob Duval, the show's director. "The theater decided from the get-go there would be no nudity. It's not integral to the show, and it was only added when the show went to Broadway. It was never a part of the original off-Broadway show."
That memorable nude scene was inspired by a real-life event in which two protesters stripped off their clothes in defiance of being arrested.
For this show, Duval has added a scene in which cast members dress up as police officers and harass a crowd of protesters as a nod to the original inspiration for the nude scene.
"The message is still very clear throughout the entire production: our bodies are beautiful in their natural state whether clothed or unclothed, whether in protest or not," said Duval.
"Hair," however you remember it (or don't remember it if you were really living it up in the 1960s), was, more than anything, a sort of socio-political pop-culture revolution. It was more than the sum of its eyebrow-raising parts.
"I love what the show has to say," said Duval. "For its time, it was so edgy. And I still think it is. It still has the power to change people's lives. It's absolutely as relevant as ever. "
In Duval's version, the show's refusenik spirit is as strong as it's always been. The set as colorful and trippy. The characters as hairy and cool. The music as powerful.
"Hair" was the first musical to use rock 'n' roll music — including the popular hits "Aquarius," "Good Morning Starshine" and "Let the Sun Shine In" — and it packed in the tunes. Most classic Broadway musicals include about 10 songs per act, but "Hair" has 19 songs in the first act and 1 in the second.
"The reason to come to 'Hair' is for the music," Duval said. "It's breakthrough music, with such great songs, that we just HAD to do them justice. So we worked for two weeks straight just on the music. Luckily, we have such a strong cast that's very musically inclined, and they just blow the roof off."
Audiences can expect some 21st-century treatment of the four-decade-old story too. A massive illuminated peace sign in glittery rainbow colors has been designed to hover over the stage and the audience, and lead character Claude's famous Act 2 acid trip is re-enacted using mirrors and shadows to create a trippy, out-of-body experience.
A Tony Award-winning revival of "Hair" is currently open on Broadway, and it's rare that a community theater like Manoa Valley Theatre is given the rights to produce a show that is still on Broadway.
It's a coup that isn't lost on fans of local theater. With the show still a week away, opening night is already sold out, with tickets selling quickly for the other four opening-weekend shows.