Singing naked hippies, what more can you ask for?


Book and lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado
Music by Galt MacDermot
Directed and choreographed by Steven Smeltzer
The Gallery Players
199 14th St Brooklyn (718/595-0547)
Equity showcase (closes Nov. 7)
Review by: Charles Battersby

The Gallery Players are no doubt well aware of the political implications of their current production. Hair was first produced on Broadway over 35 years ago, right as the hoopla over the Vietnam War was at its height. It’s sad to say, but this production is the perfect way to show just how little things have changed since then

As almost everyone knows, Hair is about a tribe of hippies living in New York during the late '60s. "Hair" is a tad low on plot, and the strongest story line is about one of the hippies getting drafted. Regardless, the story is a fine framework for the multitude of musical numbers in this lengthy show.

Hair is packed so full of great music that’s it’s hard to go wrong when producing it. The reliable Gallery Players went right, and have given this modern classic a fine production. Acting and voices were strong, the energy was high, and directing and choreography (Steven Smeltzer) were energetic and diverse. There was a touch of Godspell antics in there too. Smeltzer even had a zany cameo in drag as Margaret Mead.

The 23-member tribe was headed up by Barrett Hall as Berger, and Paul Lane as Claude, with both giving their roles just the right nuances. Lane is certainly going to go places.

The production values were also unexpectedly high for Off-Off-Broadway. Behind the audience were monitors showing trippy psychedelic video, the stage had a small platform upstage for go-go dancing, and there was even a sardonic American flag painted on one of the columns. Costumes (Jenna Rossi-Camus) were period-appropriate, fun and, occasionally sexy.

Even before the show started, the theatre was filled with hippies. As the audience entered, the cast, in costume and character, were hanging around the theatre, burning incense, sticking flowers in people’s hair, and even distributing cookies (not sure what was in those cookies but I spent the first Act watching my hands move). The cast frolicked amongst the audience for many of the numbers, increasing the audience’s bond with the characters (Smeltzer’s cameo entered right from the audience, in fact).

The question many might be asking at this point is: "Do the hippies get naked?" Yes, the infamous nude scene was kept for this production. Brief and in shadowy lighting, it was still there. Even though it was tasteful and beautiful, there were still some squares at this performance that took offense at this and some themes expressed during the show, (But those people should have known better than to go to Hair anyway).

Hair is such a fun show that it’s a pleasure to see it anytime, but the Gallery Players’ version of it was a very timely one (hust in time to possibly sway some undecided voters, perhaps). In the words of Gerome Ragni and James Rado, "Let the sun shine." And, in this show, it does.

(Also features Adam Enright, Holden Berryman, Aly Wirth, Vasthy Mompoint, Lisa Villalobos, Logan Tracey, Katie Adams, Rocco L. Arrigo, Keith Broughton, Rashad Carter, Summer Corrie, Sharon Ingram, James Jackson, Kako Kitano, Julia Kushner, Salvador Navarro, Rachel Alexa Norman, Sharisma Simmons, Brandon Straka, and Ben Tostado.)

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Performing: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2004 Charles Battersby