'Hair' revival spirited, not so edgy
By Joseph T. Rozmiarek
Special to The Advertiser
The Manoa Valley Theatre production of "Hair" has color, energy, good voices and a strong chorus. But for anyone who lived through the tribal, love/rock counter culture of the 1960s, the revival has all the edginess of a Sunday School picnic.
"Hair" is still too young to play effectively as a period piece. Consequently, it's not just entertainment — it's sociology — and how the audience perceives it seems to set a tipping point at about age 60.
Below that line, the Vietnam War, the flower children and the peace and drug movements seem as quaint as a surrey with a fringe on top.
Above that line, the '60s still resonate as a time of wrenching conflict, challenges to all authority, and with the pang of failed opportunity.
The MVT production delivers those last ingredients only fleetingly. An audience will have to look for them in the milieu of what appears to be a chemically induced, musical sleepover, lost somewhere in time.
Some performances stand out of that mix.
Jaq Ryan Galliano has the right smirky prankster tone as Berger, illustrating that if you can't have fun while annoying the adults, you've missed the point.
Kyle Malis sings well as the conflicted Claude, signalling that his early reluctance to burn his draft card will result in disastrous personal consequences.
Caroline Lawo has a mature and powerful stage voice that can also deliver shaded emotion, and Conor Malis puts the right spin of pure innocence on provocative lyrics.
The show rolls out 50 musical numbers in the course of its two acts, but a "best of" recording would easily trump a complete soundtrack.
The title song, "Good Morning Starshine," and "Let the Sun Shine In" are still powerful and "Where Do I Go?" is still poignant. Of all the lyrics, "crazy for the Red, White and Blue" still resonates with contemporary events, suggesting that wrapping oneself in the American flag continues to be the best refuge for extreme points of view.
And the nudity? It was added to be provocative and sell tickets when the original "Hair" moved downtown from Off-Broadway in the '60s, and it was deleted from the MVT revival to avoid provocation and sell tickets today. Given the overall correct tone at MVT, nudity would be out of place and is not missed.
Designer James Davenport sandwiches the action between a lighted peace sign on the ceiling and a technicolor dahlia bloom painted on the stage floor. The final image, however, is that the tribal chorus awakens from the nightmare of Claude's death in Vietnam — not to the "Age of Aquarius," but to the harsh and cold reality of a new day.
And the flower children? Well, they were young, unrealistic, misguided and distracted, weren't they? And all those love beads tend to obscure relevance, anyway.