Hairs Got Life
On Sunday night at Wagner College, I was able to attend a production of Hair at Wagner College. The production was produced by the group Completely Student Productions which produces shows entirely through students from the cast to the creative team. Knowing the the size of Hair and the production itself, I was interested to see how a student production on a show of such size would turn out. However; I have to say when I left the theatre 2 hour later, no questions remained in my mind.
Hair features a book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni and music by Galt MacDermot. The musical was originally produced Off-Broadway at the Public in 1967. It moved to Broadway in 1968 and after a short hiatus to work on the production including the adding of 13 new songs, Hair ran on Broadway for 4 years till 1972. The show was revived in 2008 at the Public and quickly moved to Broadway in 2009 where it received the 2009 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. Their is currently a tour traveling the nation. The tour will also return to New York City for 2 months this summer for a stop.
While their is clearly no lack of talent in this tribe, I have to talk first and foremost about Alex Boniello who played the role of Claude. Boniello captured the audience from the moment he introduced himself and then created his character to be one you couldn’t stop watching with his presence on stage. And if you weren’t looking by any rare chance, he grabbed your attention right back stealing every scene he was in. From his joyous celebration in “I Got Life” to his gut wrenching “Eyes Look Your Last”, Boniello shined above all other performers in the show and clearly placed himself as the frontman for the production. It was not only amazing to watch his emotional journey as his life is slowly torn apart but a joy to experience the passion and dedication clearly placed behind the character he played.
Rob Boggess, in the role of Berger, was silly and fun through out the entire performance. From “Going down” to “Hair”, which he duetted with Boniello, Boggess was the type of Berger who you liked to see staying true to the period and keeping the show full of fun, peace and happiness. Sydney Sahr, in the role of Sheila, was another joy to watch on stage. From “I Believe In Love” to “Easy to Be Hard”, Sahr easily captured the free loving spirit of the character making it impossible not to believe. Truly believing in the fight worth fighting for, she captured you emotionally making you believe that YOU must fight for what is right. And by fight of course, I mean through peace.
The rest of the tribe had no issue putting themselves into a totally different generation and time making you believe at points they should have belonged to that period. While it seemed everyone found a moment to shine in the piece, I have to give shout outs to major eye grabbers. First up is Kiri Cormack in the role of Dionne. From her beginning note opening the show, Cormack’s vocals shinned and stood out in the way a voice should stand out. Duetting in “Let The Sun Shine In” with Sahr, Cormack’s voice had the power to make one sit back and simply go “Wow”. Next up is Melanie Brook. Something is to be said about someone who is purely in the tribe of the show and can stand out from one or two featured vocal solo’s through out the course of the production. Her performance does not only stand out but is remembered through out the production. Steve Godoy, who appeared as Margaret Mead at one point, stole the show along side JR Goodman who played Hubert. Appearing as the crazy tourists looking for hippies in NYC, their appearance on stage seemed to electrify the cast just in time for the number “Hair” and totally changed the atmosphere of the room to become something crazy you wanted jump up and join in on. Also, a shout out to Brittney Santoro and Olivia Puckett whose vocals shinned above others in the tribe and especially in their own solo’s in “Black Boys” and “White Boys”.
A big congratulations to director Paige Strothmann and co-director Sammy DeSimone who created a piece that was fantastic from beginning to end. Truly capturing the spirit and feeling of Hair, together they not only created a production you could enjoy watching but also an atmosphere you wanted to belong to. Another huge congratulations belongs to Caroline Young who music directed the production which featured harmonies not even written in the score! The tribe sounded fantastic for major numbers and it was truly evident that time was spent with each cast member on vocal aspects of the show. Also, Ashley Burger and Sarah Sutliff must be mentioned as the choreography for this piece was simply great! Using the thrust stage and creating various illusions, the tribe performed moving in ever space possible even through out the audience. The choreography definitely stood out to me for its high quality for a student production so major congrats there.
Also, while most C.S.P. shows have little to not technical aspects, Hair boosted all shorts of them. Ranging from the full out costumes to the shoulder length or longer wigs on cast members, Hair’s dedication to the technical aspects of the show were not only evident but helped tell the story. Floral print, tie dye and peace signs flooded the back wall blocking out all illusion of current day surroundings. Also, while the lights for the production remained the same for almost every number, “Walking In Space” boosted moving lights of different colors and sizes helping to creat the idea of the trip taking place on stage. This dedication to the technical side not often seen in C.S.P. productions was not only nice and refreshing but needed. This is definitely something I would encourage all future C.S.P. productions to do.
All members of the cast and creative team of this production deserve a congrats on a show that captured its audience from the moment it began till the moment it ended. Although I have only been at Wagner 2 years, I’ve seen multiple student productions and can truly say Hair created the most moving piece I have seen to this day through C.S.P. at Wagner College. That is something worth mentioning. Also, I found myself tearing up at the end caught up in the emotions created by the tribe through their vocals and stage presence. If you didn’t see this piece in it’s time at Wagner, you have truly missed out on a production that tears, sweat, flowers and beads went into to create something worth remembering. This production of Hair seemed to have no trouble letting the sun shine in.