Photo: Cast of Hair by Joe McParland – Biz X magazine
Cup of Joe – HAIR Was Not Ground Breaking; It Was Earth Shattering
In January 1968, a most unusual musical play – HAIR – opened on Broadway for a run of 1750 consecutive showings. While it played in the Broadway Mecca of New York City, it also kept popping up in major cities across the United States. The entire country was swept up in HAIR hysteria.
I was 15 years old at the time of its debut and immersed in the world realities that HAIR’s creators’ Gerome Ragni, James Rado, and Galt MacDermot were expressing in word, song and dance. HAIR was an artistic mosaic of the age and time in which I was living.
HAIR was not ground breaking; it was earth shattering. It was blasphemous, irreverent, an affront to established political norms and sensibilities. This was the era of intense racial division and rioting from WATTS to the Motor City. It was the age in which young men were conscripted to fight and die in the Vietnam War against their individual beliefs and consciences. It gave birth to the ‘Peace and Free Love’ generation highlighted by their bohemian fuelled lifestyle of drugs, rebellion and protest.
HAIR has also been one of my least favourite musicals. Although it spurned classic musical numbers for the ages like Aquarius, HAIR, Good Morning Sunshine, and Let the Sunshine In, I had found it a difficult story to follow – until now, as it turns fifty years old.
ACT – Arts Collective Theatre – serving the Windsor, Detroit, Essex regions selected the 50th anniversary to present us HAIR. Artistic Director, Chris Rabideau, says “the show was the perfect choice of ACT’s inaugural ’30 Under 30’ program, a project that’s goal is to celebrate youth and their artistic abilities paired with professional mentors from our Windsor-Essex Community.”
Under the tutelage of mentors Leslie McCurdy (dance). Kathy Costa (vocals), Chris Rabideau (direction), Moya McAlister (promotion), and featured artists Nathan Schiller (musical director) and husband-wife team Brandon Soto Rivera and Nico Di Tondo (choreography), the 18-member cast performed a stellar representation of HAIR.
This talented ACT ensemble’s performance finally allowed me to understand what I wasn’t understanding about HAIR through the years. HAIR is about me, my life, my reality, my generation. At the time of its debut in the 60’s, I was too close to what it was expressing – me in my world. Familiarity breeds contempt and my being part of the events it described, prevented from fully understanding it, and made me contemptuous of it. Now, 40 years later, ACT provided me some much-needed clarity in terms of my youth.
I cannot say enough good things about ACT and their contribution to our community and to the youth of our community. To the members of this current ensemble, the times in which you live today may be confusing and hard to understand for you. In many ways they are your ‘HAIR’ days which just might take years for you to understand until later in life – much like my ‘HAIR” days of the 60’s has now come into clearer focus because of your amazing work.
I will not highlight one actor’s performance over another’s, because all of you – individually and as a ‘tribe’ – were exceptional. The magic of the lighting effects, the sets complete with the Rabideau trademark ‘video screens’, and the wardrobe selections transported me back through time. I was fifteen years old again.
I encourage everyone who reads this to make every effort to get out to the Capitol Theatre next weekend to see this play, especially those of my generation who lived through the Age of Aquarius of the 1960’s. In these tense and confusing times, HAIR just be what you need to the Let the Sunshine In.
HAIR runs September 7 through September 16 at the Capitol Theatre in downtown Windsor. Tickets available online.