HAIR at Prince Music Theatre – Philadelphia

Phildelphia’s Prince Music Theatre has a great production of HAIR which just extended through June 24, I believe (was to close tomorrow 6/17). I saw the show last night and Richard M. Parison, Jr. (director) and Eric Ebbenga (music director) and Karen Getz (choreographer) have put together a great version, set in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square. The cast is for the most part terrific though for me personally the Hud was not ideal (very hard to cast, I think). The Claude was very intense which was powerful especially at the beginning and really hooked me, but risked being “over the top” at other points. The Berger was *great*. Sheila and Jeanie were very good. All were passionately involved.

The band was very good though at times overpowered the singers during “The Trip”. The lights were spectacular I thought.

Parison and Getz’ work on the staging and direction was very impressive and we were swept away with their storytelling. Very effective and clever ideas throughout. A particularly powerful moment was a “3-5-0-0” with all the beautiful Tribe members given machine guns in Claude’s trip. “Flesh Failures/Eyes Look Your Last/Let the Sun Shine In” was very moving and genuine and organic from what proceeded it. I wiped away a few tears. 🙂
Only an extended “Initials” (to show off the ‘legit’ vocal range of a Tribe member) and an “Adam and Eve” version of “What a Piece of Work Is Man” didn’t work for me. The scene between “The Trip” and “Good Morning, Starshine”, granted very difficult, was not successful as Berger was very grave and inexplicably focused somewhere other than Claude, which made the “fuckety-fuck-fuck” humorous for the wrong reasons.

Overall, however, a very very good version with top-notch production values and a mostly excellent cast. I was left very moved by the Tribe and on the way home reflected a lot on how unique this theater piece is in it’s ability to be a cathartic and emotional experience for the performers without (hopefully) alienating the audience and becoming self-indulgent; in fact, the audience has a cathartic and emotional experience as well. AND it’s good theater/music.

If you have a chance – do go see it this week.


Matt Schicker



This entry was posted on Saturday, June 16th, 2007 at 9:57 AM and filed under Uncategorized. Follow comments here with the RSS 2.0 feed. Skip to the end and leave a response. Trackbacks are closed.

4 Responses to “HAIR at Prince Music Theatre – Philadelphia”

  1. emmy said:

    To clarify one statement I made in the above post: in the current Philly production, the Tribe members had machine guns at a different point than usual in “3-5-0=0”, which is why it stood out to me. It was after the “monk, nun, alien, Indian, etc.” section and they menacingly held the guns through “Prisoners in Niggertown” waving them as they sang.

  2. bleurose said:

    Hey Matt! Glad you got a chance to see this one, I would have liked to, but I am chained to San Jose until we open in July. I am curious about your statement that they “had machine guns at a different point that usual in 3-5-0-0”. I guess I don’t think there is any “usual” place for machine guns in 3-5-0-0 so I was wondering where you think it should be. I know some productions have put a few tribe members in Viet Cong outfits and have them gun down the people during the reprise of “ripped open by metal explosions…” but I always thought that was a bit gratuitous.

    To me, the shock of the song comes from what I call the “Platoon” factor, i.e., the fact that the tribe is gunned down from unseen snipers/??? in random, often chaotic fashion (as would be the case in any real firefight).

    Yesterday, we rehearsed the number in front of the father of one of our tribe members who was a former Navyman and served in Southeast Asia. With NO ONE carrying guns in the tribe, he felt that the scene made him ashamed of his involvement in that war. That stunned me. I am not even sure if that is what I think should be the reaction. It is supposed to depict the horror of war in all forms (not just the Vietnam war) and of governments who will send people off to kill and be killed often for no purpose or justification. It isn’t supposed to make the participants (who often don’t have much choice) ashamed of their involvement. Okay, maybe it should in some cases.

    But my point is that this didn’t require any of the tribe to carry weapons. The meaning of the song is clear enough without having to emphasize it with props, gimmicks, etc. I understand directors feel they want to interpret this, but I wonder if they do it because they worry that the people won’t get the meaning without the “extras”? If so, I think they are wrong.

    Just for the record, in our production there are no guns, at least not in 3-5-0-0. We will let the emotional impact of the lyrics and the actions/choreography carry the day on their own.

  3. emmy said:

    Hey bleurose, great to hear from you! I’m planning to come out to see yours in August…still working on the dates; I’ll be in touch. I knew I wasn’t being very clear about the “machine gun” bit in my post. Let me try again…

    I think what I’m reacting to is that in every production I’ve seen (which is only 5 or 6 I think) there are machine guns in the Viet Cong/Monks/Nuns/Aliens/Indians section, but that usually these guns go away during the next “ripped open…” section of the music.

    At the Prince, (and forgive me for not remembering every detail here), the Tribespeople someone were handed guns (or had guns) during this section of music (“ripped open” through “…Viet Cong captured” into “Prisoners in Niggertown”). The effect was that the “pure”, young Tribespeople were being “forced” to carry guns and being made into “unnatural” killers.

    The way it was done was very effective and, fortunately, it didn’t feel like an imposition on the material for the sake of “clarifying” or underlining for the audience. The line between pulling something like this off and not is a thin one, though, and as you say certainly the music and the words are plenty ***powerful*** on their own and don’t require any “help” to be effective!

  4. bleurose said:

    Ah, I see what you mean and understand my confusion. Yes, typically in the killing before 3-5-0-0 there are guns. And yes, I can see how, if properly done, this could be an emphasis on the young people (ala Claude) being turned into killers in a war.

    It sounds like, from your description, though, that they dispensed with the “children’s game” section, i.e., they went from the Monks/Nuns/etc section right into 3-5-0-0. I am not sure how I would get guns into their hands during the children’s game section where the tribe starts out as children playing games and gradually it turns into a horror show of beatings and finally everyone is lying on the ground.

    I’m glad it was effective. Of course, that is the hallmark, i.e., does it work?

    Definitely looking forward to seeing you in August!


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