Friday, September 2, 2011

Hair, CIty Theatre, August 18 - September 11

ALT reviewHair, City Theatre Austin

City Theatre's production of the 1968 musical Hair is easy to look at, lively, familiar and loud, all of which qualities I consider to be virtues. For someone who knew every note of the 1967 cast album but had never seen it on stage, City's Hair was like a binge on vanilla Oreos.

Jeff Hinkle, his four choreographers and that enthusiastic cast of twenty actor-singers keep the stage full and lively almost non-stop. They out-do Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey by far, a notable achievement given the relatively compact space available to them. As a theatre junkie, I'm always looking for a seat in the front row, but that evening I realized that for Hair I'd made an error of strategic positioning. Not because the performers got into our faces or pulled us up to dance at the end of the show -- that's part of the fun -- but because only from the middle of the house would one have a wide enough field of view.

The stage spectacle connected the 35 musical numbers performed by David Blackburn and the exuberant band into a coherent but thin narrative for me. And yes, it recalled for me the 1960s, when I was just about the age of the performers in front of me. I won't go into any nostalgia kick, but I will point out that things were very different. The Vietnam War was in full swing, a nine-year conflict that killed ten times as many American soldiers as have died in Iran and Afghanistan since the U.S. attack on Baghdad eight years ago. Because of the military draft, teenage men found their futures and perhaps their lives determined by the annual lottery choosing them by birthdates. The media were hovering, fascinated, over the war, over the alluring counter-culture, and over the protests.

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