For the last few days I’ve been somewhat enthralled by the events of the union protests in Madison, Wis. From the tweets inside the Capitol to the sounds of drumming and chants of the protesters, the entire story fascinates me.
Just weeks before that, it was the Egyptian protests that captured the world, giving new meaning to the word liberation and defying all odds to strong arm its leader out of power.
No doubt, it’s been quite a year for uprisings.
So what better time than now to see the Hennepin Theatre Trust’s touring production of “Hair” at the Orpheum Theatre — a show that, no pun intended, set the stage for fighting against the war, “the man” and for ultimate freedom.
A revival of the original 1967 show, “Hair” is all about the teen rebellion of that era — from sex and drugs to rock ‘n’ roll and the ultimate sense of doing what feels good.
The show is unlike any other in the way that it aims for a mood, a sense of nostalgia and to evoke a memory of the time that was, rather than tell the audience what it was like. Unfortunately, this was lost on younger viewers, like myself.
I’ll admit, my only pre-show “Hair” experience was catching references during the “Hairography” episode of “Glee.”
I’ll pause a moment to wait for subsequent cringing.
So between my lack of knowledge of “Hair” and the fact that I have no concept of what it must’ve been like to live during the late 60s, early 70s, it’s safe to say that more than a few references were completely foreign to me.
The show opens to a number of 60s-era songs, some that I recognized, others I did not, and really that’s about it — not much dialogue, no storyline yet and I’ll be honest, not a ton of direction for the kind of story that’s to follow.
While the actors on stage well exceeded the expectations of their vocal performances, the true heart and soul of the decade falls a little flat. It came off a bit more “acted” than “lived.” Perhaps that’s what it was really like, but for me, that grit and unabashed frame of mind that I was expecting seemed more like a stereotyped version of the characters.
Once the storyline got going, the performances became a little more real for me. The story of the confused and conflicted adolescent, Claude, who is trying to strike a balance between following freedom and staying in line with tradition was played beautifully by Paris Remillard. Some of the best moments in the show were hardly even moments — they were emotions pouring out of the eyes of a tortured soul, the heart-wrenching angst of true teen confusion.
The goofball slacker, King of the Hippies, Banana Berger (Steel Burkhardt) is a chaotic spinning ball of, well, hair that provides a significant part of the humor throughout the show. Between tousling audience members’ tresses, performing near-lap dances and unleashing gallons of energy throughout the theater, Burkhardt definitely holds a tight grip on the audience’s attention.
And there’s no question that the women of the show pack a powerful punch of vocals — with their individual talents oozing through each performance. But from the whimsical to the commanding, the characters seemed a little one note, rather than an emotional combination representing an influential era.
And though I had been pre-warned about the little nudity at the end of Act One, I still wasn’t quite ready. Not that I’m a prude, but more so that the full-frontal performance seemed a little oddly placed to me. Sure, they were expressing a point of freedom, a point of shedding the weight of the world, along with their bell bottoms, but it came off a bit like nudity for nudity’s sake. The shock and awe was certainly there but the emotion just wasn’t.
While the show didn’t quite resonate with me as much as I’m sure it did with other members of the audience, it’s still such an iconic one to include in anyone’s theater repertoire. It was a true pleasure watching the faces in the crowd of those that lived it and loved it — and some that even brought out their old fringe fashions just for it.
But the truth is, it just may not be a show for everyone. Though the talent is undeniable, the audience’s lasting memory is a bit more questionable. “Hair” has all the body and volume that one would need but like any once-stylish ‘do, it seems by the end of the day, it has fallen a little flat.
“Hair” runs through Sunday at the Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Orpheum Theatre. For ticket information, click here.