Let me be the first to congratulate the Shoshone tribe!

Barb (my spouse) and I saw the opening performances (both alumni Friday and the gala on Saturday) of Michael Butler’s new production of HAiR at the Met Theater in Los Angeles this past weekend and I would like to say that it is fantastic and well worth seeing by anyone who loves HAiR (as well as anyone who has never seen it!)

Director Bo Crowell has done a terrific job of bringing the true spirit of HAiR to the stage. The Met is a small theater seating only 99 (Equity-waiver rules) but it has one thing we didn’t have at San Pedro Square in San Jose: height, and Bo uses the height amazingly well, with Berger and Sheila both doing terrific falls from 7+ feet into the waiting arms of their Shoshone tribe members. The choreography is mostly excellent (I had a few minor quibbles with some of the unison dancing moves but it never detracted from the spirit of the tribe members or the show), and the vocals, led by music director (and son of former Monkee Michael) Christian Nesmith, are nothing short of stupendous. From the first harmonic chord of Aquarius by the full tribe, I knew we were in for a real treat.

The entire tribe deserves acknowledgement one by one for their singing, acting and dancing abilities. All the leads were accomplished actors and singers, albeit there was obvious voice strain that a few were experiencing (which is probably common in HAiR given the projection that is always required for this show – we had it in San Jose too). Trance Thompson nailed the character of Hud and James Barry as Claude managed to be sensitive, charming and a bit crazy at the same time.

The set was very good and the lighting outstanding given the limitations of the theater. I would have loved a bit more effect lighting but limited budgets always demand compromise. The sound system had some problems both nights, particularly the wireless body packs (which I admit I didn’t like very much, but they were less obtrusive than I expected them to be), but almost all the vocals could be heard easily, even when the sound system failed the performers (the theater has very good acoustics for an “old warehouse-type” performing space).

There were a few cuts in the script but nothing that was terribly missed. There was no movie scene (it is always optional in the Tams Witmark script but I enjoy seeing it, however it does add to the first act which in this production was already over 1:15). They did include the song Hippie Life right where Going Down normally occurs. Berger was the lead singer in this one, but I prefer Going Down for him.

That was, indeed, my only real disappointment: the absence of the song Going Down. It and The Bed were missing – The Bed is frequently removed, and while I love the song, it’s absence in this production didn’t bother me that much, as the lead-in to Good Morning Starshine and the subsequent Aquarius Good Nights were handled as a very nice segue leading to Claude’s aloneness on the stage as he prepares to face his destiny. However, Going Down has so much importance in the show, and I think it hurt not to have the song in the show. In fact, I really loved Bo’s inclusion of the “principal” who expells Berger from school to lead a really creative version of Initials (I believe this is taken from something done in the Candlefish production which Bo did 8 or 9 years ago), and it would have been a intro to the principals in Going Down, which sadly wasn’t there.

All in all, though, this is an excellent production that everyone should try to see. I understand that the LA Weekly reviewer was there on Saturday and I hope there is a rave review – the show deserves it.Â

Best wishes to the Shoshone tribe and Bo and Christian and Michael B!


Jon Rosen


PS – We also got to see Avenue Q at the Ahmanson on Sunday afternoon and if you are looking for a HOOT after seeing HAiR, definitely see it! We have loved the album since the show premiered in 2003, but this was our first chance to see it live (it was sold out in New York when we were back in April) and it was BEYOND great! People humping as in HAiR is almost old hat these days on stage, but PUPPETS humping is so over the top that I nearly cried! And the show-stealers are the two puppets that make almost no appearance on the album – The Bad Idea Bears. What a funny FUNNY show! Don’t miss it!

PPS – Don’t go to see Avenue Q if you are a Bush Republican. Trust me, you won’t like it 🙂


PPPS – Then again, if you were a Bush Republican, why would you be here? 😉




This entry was posted on Sunday, September 16th, 2007 at 9:47 PM and filed under Uncategorized. Follow comments here with the RSS 2.0 feed. Skip to the end and leave a response. Trackbacks are closed.

2 Responses to “Let me be the first to congratulate the Shoshone tribe!”

  1. Nina Dayton said:

    For those interested, here are two reviews of the Met production of Hair in LA, produced by our very own MB:

    From LA Weekly:

    HAIR Staging Gerome Ragni, James Rado and Galt MacDermot’s Summer of Love rock & roll gem inevitably involves a challenge: Director-choreographer Bo Crowell could present the show as a period piece, trotting out the tie-dyed peasant shirts and bell-bottoms that the cast’s parents might have been keeping in mothballs. Or they could go “relevant,” shoehorning the play into a modern context. Crowell cannily opts for something in between, a spiritual take that gives the material an unexpected timelessness. In this 40th-anniversary production, which is produced by original producer Michael Butler (who has overseen more renditions of the play than there are remaining hairs on many of the original audience members’ heads), the show possesses an oddly suitable New Age undercurrent. This is Hair by way of Burning Man. The show also has a pleasingly dangerous quality — the drug trips and orgies co-mingle qualities of ecstasy and rage, so you’re never sure that the singing and dancing hippies aren’t going to leap into the audience and go psycho all over you. Although the pacing flags during portions of Act 2, and some of the songs suffer from overamplification due to the ghastly wraparound microphones, Christian Nesmith’s musical direction is perfect — and Crowell’s free-spirited choreography contains an intricate grace. James Barry’s turn as the doomed hippie Claude is powerful — but it’s the ensemble’s heartfelt renditions of “Aquarius” and “Let the Sun Shine In” that induce the show’s bona fide chills. MET THEATRE, 1089 Oxford Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 3. (323) 960-4442. (Paul Birchall)


    From LA StageScene.com

    The year was 1968.

    16,592 American soldiers lost their lives in Vietnam, the greatest number of
    casualties for any year of the war. At home, assassins’ bullets killed Bobby
    Kennedy and Martin Luther King. 10,000 or more enraged Americans
    protested the Vietnam War outside the Democratic convention in Chicago,
    leading to hundreds of arrests and police-inflicted injuries.

    On Broadway, the Tony winning musicals were the bubbly Promises, Promises,
    the nostalgic George M, the charming Dear World, the historical 1776, and the
    bawdy Canterbury Tales.

    Clearly there was a disconnect in 1968 between the real world and the
    Broadway musical. With one exception—Hair, nominated for two Tonys and
    losing both. Only Hair, with its young cast of war-protesting, love-making, pot-
    smoking real-life-living Americans depicted on stage what was happening off.
    And it revolutionized Broadway.

    Now, nearly 40 years later, Hair is back, in an exciting new staging at the Met
    Theater, with a cast of 28 young performers who weren’t even born until
    fifteen to twenty year after Hair debuted. The show might seem a quaint
    nostalgic period piece, if not for the real world of 2007, where once again
    America is involved in an unpopular war abroad, where once again young
    Americans are losing their lives.

    There is one big difference, however. In 1968 there was the draft. In 1968
    every young man was in danger of being sent off to kill and be killed, and that
    is the reality which Hair reflected.

    Thanks to the original Broadway producer, Michael Butler, Angelinos can now
    either revisit that tumultuous time in American history, or discover it for the first
    time, in Butler’s excellent revival directed with verve and imagination by Bo
    Crowell, who also choreographed its period perfect, arms swaying in the air
    dance numbers, which transform the stage into a 1960s love-in.

    What little book Hair possesses revolves around Claude, who faces a life-
    altering decision. To burn (his draft card), or not to burn. The rest of the show is
    a non-stop succession of now famous songs (by Galt MacDermot, Gerome
    Ragni, and James Rado) which include Aquarius, Donna, I Got Life, Easy to be
    Hard, Where do I Go?, Good Morning Starshine, Let the Sunshine In, and of
    course, Hair. These are performed by an energetic and talented (and mostly
    bare-footed) young cast, headed by James Barry as Claude, Lee Ferris as
    Berger, and Johanna Unger as Sheila.

    Some of the highlights of Crowell’s imaginative staging include a prayerful
    Sodomy, a gas-masked character suddenly emerging from an onstage
    manhole, a choir director leading a hymn to LSD, a US soldier getting high after
    a bunch of Hari Krishnas offer him pot, a succession of male characters burning
    their draft cards in a large metal trash can, a musical number lit only by black
    light and flashlights, and Claude’s bizarre LSD trip, which takes up most of Act
    2. The latter features Indians vs. white men, a black female Abe Lincoln, Clark
    Gable and Scarlet O’Hara, a slim blonde Aretha Franklin, General Custer,
    Vietnamese monks, Catholic nuns, Ku Klux Klanners, and a drunken Calvin
    Coolidge. That’s some acid trip! Oh, and there’s also the infamous Act 1 finale
    with nearly the entire cast stripping down to their birthday suits.

    I have to admit to Hair being one of my least favorite musicals. I much prefer
    shows with a stronger book/dialog/story line to follow, I’m not a huge fan of
    MacDermot’s music, and the 2nd act drug trip goes on way too long for me.

    That being said, this 40th anniversary production is about as good as it gets,
    from its dynamic leads Barry and Ferris to its huge and hugely talented
    ensemble. Barry especially, with his wide-eyed boyish good looks and strong
    voice, captures the audience’s sympathies immediately. Among the
    supporting cast, standouts include Jordan Segal, who delights as a middle-
    aged female tourist (named Margaret Mead); long-haired Benjamin Ricci as
    Woof (the one with a crush on Mick Jagger) who leads the ode to Sodomy;
    Trance Thompson as a soulful Woof; Joanna Anderson, who lends her wispy
    voice to the amusing Frank Mills; and big voiced Zoe Hall and Clifford Banagale
    (a petite charmer with a gorgeous high tenor) singing What a Piece of Work is

    The band, led by musical director Christian Nesmith, is sensational. Lena
    Garcia has designed a multilevel Central Park set, including bridge and tunnel,
    and manhole. Dawn Worrall and Rachel Krishna Anderson’s costumes (oh
    those granny dresses!) are straight out of the sixties. S&W’s lighting adds
    greatly to the mood, especially in the drug trip and black light sequences.

    Whether Hair is a nostalgic visit to your youth (as was the case for most of the
    opening night gala audience) or a visit to your parent’s or grandparent’s
    younger days, this production captures the energy and passion and
    excitement of the late 1960s, and despite my caveats about the work itself, it
    is well worth seeing.

    The Cast of Hair: Amber Allen, Joanna Anderson, Rachel Anderson, Clifford
    Banagle, James Barry, Tim Brown, Bianca Caruso, Lee Ferris, Zoe Hall, Noah
    Jordan, Rebekah Kujawsky, Circe Link, Ian Madeira, Sara Mann, Annette
    Moore, Gaby Moreno, Suzanne Nichols, Stephen Nolly, Kevin Pierce, Erin
    Rettino, Benjamin Ricci, Sarah Schweppe, Jordan Segal, Trance Thompson,
    Johanna Unger, Felicia Walker, Dawn Worrall and Nataly Wright.

    The MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Av., Hollywood, CA 90029.
    September 14, through November 3. Regular showtimes: Thurs.- Sat. at 8, Sun.
    at 3..
    RESERVATIONS: (323) 960-4442.
    ONLINE TICKETING: http://www.Plays411.com/hair

    –Steven Stanley

  2. bleurose said:

    Great reviews Nina, and pretty much right on. I really liked the Weekly reviewer’s comment saying “This is Hair by way of Burning Man.” I definitely agree with that. Someday, Hair should be taken to the Playa and presented every night of the event for free. I don’t know what it would take in the way of rights and costs, but it would be a terrific venue to do the show.

    I wish reviewers wouldn’t say that the show lacks a story line. It may lack narrative and dialog but the story line is there clear as day, and Bo did a good job making sure it was understandable. I think it is a STRONG book, even if it is a skinny one. The message is crystal clear (in fact, it sort of hits you over the head, don’t you think?)

    Its just carried mostly by the music (gee, do you think this guy liked Phantom of the Opera or Les Miz or Miss Saigon? Not a WORD of dialog there!) and I see nothing wrong with that. Especially when you have an ensemble of singers as strong as the one at the Met.

    Break a leg, all you Shoshone, you got some really nice reviews here! Congratulations!

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