Butler brings “Hair” back for convention
by William J. Burghardt
Copley News Service August 1 – 7, 1996

Michael Butler took in a production of “Hair’ recently at the University of Iowa.  Preceding the production was a symposium on the 1960’s.

“These kids were really interested about what happened in that decade,” said Butler. A man who brought Hair, then an obscure Off-Broadway show, to the Great White Way in 1968.

Butler thought it would be great to have a touring production of the rock musical come to Chicago at the same time as the Democratic convention.  Butler wanted to bring the Iowa show to Chicago.  “We couldn’t get it together,” he said.  “You know academe.  But a lot of colleges do the show, so we zeroed in on a professional troupe in residence at Cal State, Fullerton.  It was quite an exceptional piece, and they jumped on the chance to tour to Chicago.”

The show, which opens Friday, will run only the month of August, but coincides with the convention.

“The last time the democrats were in Chicago when the protest movement was at its peak, Hair was on Broadway, and being staged in Chicago,” said Butler.  “It’s appropriate to bring it to Chicago at this time.”

Butler has a strong affinity for the rock musical.

“There’s no way any production can capture the electricity and spontaneity of the original.  There are many separate dimensions to the piece.  The musical score is incredibly entertaining.  But there’s something spiritual about it.  In fact, we invited the Dalai Lama to come see a special performance of the show.”

Butler is still recovering from the quick launch and closing of Pope Joan, a musical built around the legend of the only woman who became pope.  The show, which won a best new work Joseph Jefferson award when it was performed in a workshop at the Bailiwick Theater, was given a new staging at the Mercury Theater earlier this year, but closed after only a few weeks.

“That show was over promoted and under produced,” said Butler.  “The materials made it sound like we were one step from Broadway, when in fact it was just a second step workshop show.  We are going ahead with refinements to move the show eventually to New York.”

This production of Hair, however, is full blown, with a large orchestra, in a theater Butler feels has excellent acoustics.

There are no stars in this show – it’s staged with college kids, which is how the first show was and is the only way I feel the show should be cast,” he said.  “But it’s a very professional piece.  The Pacific Musical Theater is a professional troupe in residence at Cal State, Fullerton, and this will be a professional show in every way.

Copyright Coply News Service.

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