MANSFIELD — If you are one of the lucky ones to have tickets for the current production of the rock musical “Hair” at MMAS, you will not be disappointed.
With a glorious cast under the astute direction of Meg Quin Dussault, this show is a great staging of the iconic musical, which is marking its 50th anniversary.
Entering the theater, the audience is welcomed by a beautiful, colorful mural that recalls the ‘60s hippie movement, with peace signs, flowers and painted posters of the Doors and Janis Joplin.
You are also welcomed by the cast as they interact with you. It might be a bit too intrusive for some, but hey, it’s all about sharing and spreading love.
When “Hair” opened on Broadway in 1968 there was a lot of controversy over its nudity, profanity and promotion of illegal drugs such as marijuana and LSD. But it is the quintessential play about protest, love, social injustice and the First Amendment. And while MMAS forgoes the nudity and tries not to go too far with the mature content, Dussault states in her director’s notes that the play is still “just as necessary, relevant and essential today as it was then.”
Hair tells the story of the “tribe,” a politically active group of long-haired hippies living a bohemian lifestyle in New York. Claude, his good friend Berger, their roommate Sheila and their friends struggle to balance life, love, sexuality and pacifism with conservative parents and society during the Vietnam War. For these hippies it is the “Age of Aquarius,” which is the opening song and one of the musical highlights of the play with beautiful lead vocals by Stephanie Blood.
Hair originated a new concept in musical theater, the nonlinear narrative, and paved the way for other rock musicals such as “Godspell, “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Rent.”
Dussault has gathered a multi-talented cast and the performances are evocative, at times humorous as well as emotional. The cast all work well together to pay tribute to the play’s original concept.
Billy Luce Jr. stands out as the central character Claude, the theoretical leader of “the tribe.” His performance is gut-wrenching as his character agonizes over whether to resist the draft as his friends have done, or succumb to pressure from his parents and conservative America to serve in Vietnam.
He is the heart of this production and his vocal talents are tops as he leads the tribe in “ I Got Life” and the title song, but especially with song “Where Do I Go” at the end of Act 1.
Kasey Lynch as Sheila also delivers a very moving performance with one of the more mainstream songs of the play, “Easy to be Hard.” Sheila is in-love with Berger, the irreverent free spirit of the tribe, aptly portrayed by Trey Lundquist, who seems to care more for the”bleeding crowd” than about her. She also leads the tribe in a lovely rendition of one of the show’s more popular songs, “Starshine,” in Act II.
Lunquist also demonstrates his vocal talents in songs such as “Going Down” as he extols the virtues of dropping out of high school and avoiding the draft. And he blends well with Luce in the title song.
With so many fine performances it’s hard to name them all. However, there are few more that need to be mentioned. Kevin Sweeney is fun to watch as the “naturalist” Woof. He is especially exuberant when Claude presents Woof with a Mick Jagger poster.
Vivenne Carrette as the pregnant Jeannie demonstrates good comic timing as well as great vocal talent with the song “Air,” a satirical look at pollution caused by civilization.
Ibrahima Tyler Jahumpa also delivers an almost rap-like version of “Dead End.”
The other various tribe members also shine in Act II during Claude’s hallucinogenic scene. Aria DeRosa as Abe Lincoln shares her vocal talent with the modernized version of the Gettysburg Address. Michelle Monti as a Buddhist monk demonstrates her comedic skills as well as her vocal ones.
Under the musical direction of Shannon Stiles, the cast and orchestra all blend well and present the musical numbers true to what writers James Rado and Gerome may have intended. That’s true right up to the final emotional scene with Luce’s Claude leading with “Flesh Failures” and the rest of the cast joining in and closing with “Let the Sun Shine In.”