CMTS’s ambitious production of Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical premieres tonight at 8 pm. You can also catch it tomorrow at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. in Roone Arledge Auditorium. Bwog sent Musical Maven Alexandra Svokos to the dress rehearsal to give us the rest of the details.
Headed by first-time CMTS director Katie Cacouris, CC ’15, with co-producers Adrian Alea and Allie Carieri, both also CC’15, Hair is a huge undertaking for a variety of issues. Practically speaking, it is the biggest production put on by CMTS in recent history—while a typical musical has 9-12 people in the cast, Hair has 27. This means double the costumes, mics, lighting, props, wigs, and so on. Then there’s the musical content itself; controversial at its premiere, it has not lost some of its shock in its clear presentation of war, sexuality, civic responsibility, drugs, sex, and nudity.
Which is why it’s extremely relieving that this production is being put on by a group of highly dedicated, concerned, and talented individuals. Cacouris herself is a fan of the original musical, and the cast is quick to shout that she knows every tiny detail about the musical, down to exactly what each word in the script means. Despite actually hating it the first time she saw it (“I wasn’t sure what to make of it, it was too intense.”), she gave it another try and fell in love, especially with the way it is clearly a period piece, depicting the hippie culture of the late 60s, but still “feels very relevant.” As she says, “it’s not about counter-culture, it’s just about people.”
The cast appears to understand this point. Rebekah Lowin, CC ’14, who plays innocently lovestruck Crissy, pushes that everyone has been taking the show very seriously. There is “a current of sadness throughout the show,” despite its heavy presentation of flower children with hazy indifference. Hair tells the story of a “tribe” of hippies in New York City, with Claude (Ben Platt, CC ’16) at its center as he tries to figure out what to do when he gets called by the Vietnam War draft.
Alessio Mineo, CC ’14, plays Berger, Claude’s best friend who has also been drafted. Being in this show has forced Mineo to look at his own life. He admits he had “never thought about what it’d be like to go to war or to be drafted.” Playing this role, he realizes how lucky he is to not have to deal with a draft, and it’s because of real life people like his Berger, who pushed for social change. Raquel Chavez, CC ’14, (playing Dionne) is also struck by this concept. “Participating in this show restored my faith in theater as an enactor of change, ” she says. “It was so shocking, so groundbreaking that it propelled the theater world to discussions on social change.”
Being in this particular production has apparently been an incredible experience. Every cast and crew member has gushed that it’s the best group of people they have ever worked with. Tribe member Kyle McCormick, CC ’14, effuses, “this is the luckiest I’ve ever been, it’s the most talented group of people.” The story of the musical stresses the tribe aspect and is overall highly collaborative; the entire cast is onstage for the entire first act except for one 3-minute song. Jenny Singer, BC ’15, who plays the pregnant tribe member Jeanie, laughs off the endurance aspect. “It’s similar to performance art,” she says.
The tribe has taken efforts to truly get to know each other and become close. “We’ve had more bonding than any musical I’ve ever done,” Singer explains. They have let their guard down both physically and emotionally around each other, in an attempt to emulate what people did in the 60s. “It’s been special,” Singer adds. This is the first time that tribe member Ahmet Ali Arslan’s, SEAS ’14, has done theater and he has thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the group’s close and loving atmosphere. It’s true, there’s a lot of love going around. At rehearsals, the cast runs, jumps, cartwheels, and spins around in smiles, thoughtlessly hugging and touching each other. The energy is positive and highly infectious.
The set, headed by art director Jiin Choi, CC ’14, has the earthy tones of the counter-culture, with a massive painted moon and fringed tassels. But even the set recognizes the musical’s ultimately dark theme with its deep ochers. The CMTS production stays loyal to the original production, nudity will be included, though under faded lights. Cacouris pushes that it is a necessary part of the story and truly adds depth to a deeply “poignant moment.” She is proud of the way her cast has handled it. “Acting is about giving a part of yourself,” says says, “and they’re really doing that.”
Hair promises to be a fantastic show and experience. The talented cast and crew have been working hard to do the show justice, and their efforts seem to be paying off. “Being in the show made me a lot more appreciative of people,” McCormick says. “I feel like I’m so much friendlier now.” Chavez also pushed this point, adding that the show focuses on the “undervalued ideal of love,” even if that’s a “hippie cliché.” The cast members seem to be embracing all of the show’s ideals. Talking about the experience, Chavez smiled: “‘cuz I love the show, and I love my hair.”
Hair premieres tonight at 8 pm and continues tomorrow, also at 8 pm, and Sunday at 2 pm. Tickets are available online and at the TIC.