The touring tribe of Hair had their first show in Seattle today, a 1 p.m. matinee at the Paramount Theatre. (I heard that the cast also appeared during halftime at the 1 p.m. Seahawks game, and I’m still wondering how they worked that out! Seahawks lost, btw.)
Tip: if you’re going to see Hair at the Paramount, get a seat on the main floor on an aisle, so you can enjoy the cast members up close.
Overall: the show was awesome. Act I was particularly engaging, and the audience loved it. I’ll get to Act II later. First, some observations about the cast members.
I have to mention Berger first, because it’s such a key role. Steel Burkhardt was wonderfully outrageous and rudely charming, he really kicked the whole thing off with a powerful start. We thought he was as good as Cheyenne Jackson, who played Berger in the 2002 regional staging of Hair at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre, which means he was damned good.
Next, we have Sheila. I have never really cared for any of the Sheilas before, but Caren Lyn Tackett (no webpage) absolutely charmed me! Wonderful voice and acting, she made the character so likable.
Matt DeAngelis was endearing and entertaining as Woof.
Phyre Hawkins was outstanding as Dionne.
Kaitlin Kiyan was the best Crissy I’ve ever seen.
If you’re a fan of Hair, you’re probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned Claude. I really love Hair and I really wanted to love every moment of the show today. But I just couldn’t fall in love with Paris Remillard’s Claude. His voice was wonderful, it wasn’t that — I can’t even point to what it was, other than that the energy just seemed sort of misplaced. Part of the problem, I’m sure, is that I can’t help but compare him to my last Claude, Louis Hobson (5th Avenue Theatre production of Hair, 2002 and 2003), who gave a heartwrenching performance. So let’s just say it was my fault that I couldn’t like today’s Claude.
Act II in Hair is challenging for the audience, because Act I is such a rambunctious party. The second half of Act II takes us all to a much darker place. The big challenge is the ending – being what it is, how do you acknowledge Claude’s senseless death without crashing the audience into utter depression? I’ve seen it done powerfully, in ways that make the final “Let the Sun Shine In” a dirge, a plea, and a hope. There needs to be that touch of hope to redeem the story.
This staging of Hair didn’t manage to accomplish that delicate balance at the end. The cast leaves the theater, the faint sounds of the final verse of the song fading, and we are left there looking at Claude’s dead body laying on the stage. Silence. That’s it: the end. The confused applause begins.
I acknowledge the power in that choice, but seriously…WTF? You’ve just spent two plus hours taking us on a roller-coaster ride and at the last minute, you just drop us over the edge?
Then the cast reenters doing a reprisal of “Hair”, dancing and smiling and inviting the crowd on stage as if they hadn’t just kicked us in the gut. All I can say is, there are better ways of staging the final scene.