By Philip Doyle
Before the show began, I listened to two older ladies talk about what a “happening” is. Was it something that hippies did? Is it an art thing? Is it like a flash mob? They decided to just wait and watch the show, and see what happens.
Here is what is happening at Littleton’s Town Hall Arts Center- A perfect storm of talent, direction and technical creativity that is Hair: The American Tribal Love-RockMusical.
In its day Hair was, and still is, a revolutionary expression of peace, love, freedom and happiness. More than a hippie musical, it transcends from an anti-war protest into a frolicking, hallucinogenic challenge to reach beyond ourselves.
Hair is scattered with music that we grew up listening to. Most notibly “Aquarius” and “Good Morning Starshine” have earwormed their way into our collective musical lexicon. But for me, the heart of this show is the way the lyrics bring up race and sexuality in numbers like “I’m Black”, “Colored Spade”, “Sodomy”, “Black Boys”, and “White Boys”. It does more than just address themes of free love and racism- Hair celebrates them.
Hair relies on the strength of its cast, and in this case the cast, or “tribe” is pretty damn flawless. From the start, as they weave rhythmically on to the stage, this tribe is an all encompassing kaleidoscope of talent.
From the dawn of the first act, Dionne played by the gorgeous and exceedingly gifted Ashilie-Amber Harris, plants a spectacular seed from which the rest of the play grows.
Matt LaFontaine throws down an attention grabbing performance as Berger, a free-loving, psychedelic, teddy bear of a man. LaFontaine is brimming with a jubilant energy, and has the full attention of the audience until curtain call.
Tyrell D. Rae as Hud flows around the stage with a confident strut. Rae has an innate stage presence that is smart and beautiful to behold. (If you want to see Nick Sugar’s inspired choreography manifest itself brilliantly on the stage, watch Rae.)
Casey Andree is endearing as Claude. He possesses a gentle innocence that is sweet and vulnerable. Like a little brother that you want to shield and protect, Andree’s performance garners the audiences love.
I could go on singing praises to the gifted cast. Burke Walton is fantastic as Woof. Norrell Moore is great as Sheila, as is Rebekah Ortiz as Jeanie. Do you see where this is going? They are all very, very good. I could ramble on, but you get my point. Talent abounds.
The intimate space transforms with the use of vibrant color, projections, and visual effects. Thanks to the efforts of skilled designers and technicians, and helmed by stage manager Steven Neal, the stage comes alive. (This show has got a lot of life.)
Music director Donna Kolpan Debreceni fills the production with the essential vibe that only a live band can provide.
Director/Choreographer Nick Sugar is a blessing. I could toss a myriad of praises his way. The love and joy that embodies Hair flows from Sugar’s creative soul. Within a span of minutes he can present a musical number with the bouncing frivolity and spectacle of a Muppet’s musical; groove you into a Motown doo-wop; take you on a magical mystery tour; and shake things up with the heart-breaking reality of war. Sugar gathers the abundant talent that surrounds him, and coalesces the elements into a fantastic happening.
It would be very difficult for me to conjure up anything critical to say about this production. I could probably mention a few little things, a few nit-picky minor details, but to do so would be a lie. I loved this show.
Hair plays May 17-June 16 at the Town Hall Arts Center. The Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton is a short 20-25 minute drive from central Denver. If you have never been there, or if you’re looking for a reason to go again- this is your chance. Hair is a trip worth taking.