WESTON, Vt. – On July 20 the Weston Theater Company opened the iconic rock musical “Hair,” with book by Gerome Ragni and James Rado and Grammy Award winning score by Galt MacDermot on the main stage in Weston. It will run through Aug. 13.
Set in the social and political times of trouble and change of 1968, “Hair” is often referred to as the great American “tribal love rock musical.” It is directed by Susanna Gellert, who is also Executive Artistic Director of Weston. She says, “’Hair’ is about a group of people imagining the world as it could be, coming together and saying, What if we all loved each other a little more?”
The musical is a piece of art that reminds us of our humanity. Even in the world of sunshine and free love, we still have our human frailties. It has an obvious social commentary, but it doesn’t hit you over the head with its agenda because you are having so much fun watching it. The Weston version of this gem isn’t just great theater, it’s quite a magical experience. I can’t say enough about the outstanding, exuberant cast and overall fine quality of the production.
“Hair” opened on Broadway at the Biltmore Theatre on April 29, 1968. In many ways, it became an anthem of my generation, the one that came of age in the late 1960s and lived through the Vietnam War and the overall unrest in society. Besides politics, those times saw a sociological and cultural shift for Americans as well. Racial relations, sexual mores, changing gender roles, recreational drug use, and a shift in popular music and theater were all part of the transformation. All of that is present in this musical, although, on the surface, it is simply a joyous celebration of the “Hippie Movement” and its promise of the idyllic “Age of Aquarius,” as states its theme song. The show’s profanity, irreverence, and nude scene caused much comment and controversy in its day. This production keeps it fresh and relevant with protest signs waved on stage that proclaim “Black Lives Matter” and “My grandmother already marched for that.”
Not only did the diverse, talented, and vocally powerful cast dazzle with song and uber-energetic dance, but some played various musical instruments on stage as well. At times they improvised with the audience, and that added to the fun. The mostly ensemble songs that tell their story range from roof-raising to ethereal.
Matt Rodin and Nathan Salstone, as Berger and Claude, are quite effective at moving the action forward. Although I would like to name them all individually, I will just say, also of note were the strong vocals and saxophone playing of Alanna Saunders playing Sheila, and Emma Diner who played Chrissy, accompanying herself on the acoustic guitar for the only solo song, and my favorite one in the show, “Frank Mills.” She sings about a probably one time encounter she can’t get over with an innocence and sweetness that stops the show for a moment.
The set of metal scaffolding, ladders, and stairs is timeless, fluid, and provides a distinct urban vibe. The eye-catching costumes completely capture the era. Lighting and other effects, especially in the scenes of the cast escaping into their “stoned” stage, are appropriately first rate.
Covid protocols will continue in place. Masks and proof of vaccination are required for the audience for all performances. For more details, a schedule of the remaining performances, and the rest of this season’s offerings, visit www.westontheater.org.