He Said: Iconic Tribal Rock Musical HAIR Reaches New High at The Eagle Theatre

by Jack Shaw
The cast of HAIR, running at The Eagle Theatre in Hammonton, NJ through May 11. (Photo credit: Chris Miller)

The cast of HAIR, running at The Eagle Theatre in Hammonton, NJ through May 11. (Photo credit: Chris Miller)

The Eagle Theatre’s production of HAIR was stunning and electrifying again with a different charge–an amazing comeback for a 45-year-old musical. The singing performances alone in this show will leave you breathless, but there’s much more to hold your attention.

Again on Broadway, HAIR won the Tony for the Best Revival of Musical in 2009. Of course, it may not have the same shock value it had in 1968 when the show challenged not only social norms of the Western world but Broadway’s theatre traditions as well.

In 1968, Gerome Ragni and James Rado, the musical’s primary creators wanted to show the world what hippies were like based on people they knew, what they thought about, and what issues they had. Galt MacDermot did the music. However, this fine quality show is not for children. There is a story, language, sexual innuendo and gestures, a nude scene, and a lot of symbolism. I’m sure some of that symbolism would be harder to explain to my children. I have to admit, as advertised, this is the tribal rock musical that ignited a spirit of a generation. My generation.

At The Eagle Theatre, Ted Wioncek, III, the director, brought a wonderfully talented cast to create the “tribe” and individuals within it. The music and sound were as phenomenal as I’ve come to expect–if not more so with this show. Tom Abruzzo, the music director, was at his peak, too, as his musicians played flawlessly. Also, it seemed every actor had truly become a member of this “tribe,” perhaps founding a faux tribe when not on stage. The only things missing were the real drugs, blurry eyes, running noses, tie-dyed anything and bell bottoms–probably hard to find these days anyway. Just the bell bottoms. Well, you can’t have everything.

The cast performs the hit, "Aquarius" in The Eagle Theatre's production of HAIR. (Photo credit: Chris Miller)

The cast performs the hit, “Aquarius” in The Eagle Theatre’s production of HAIR. (Photo credit: Chris Miller)

The Eagle Theatre stage is not a large one and at first look when the tribe emerges it seems rather crowded and you begin to wonder if this musical is going to work. Rado had studied traditional Broadway theatre, while Ragni was more interested in Open or Experimental Theatre, which has audience involvement, so they wove those two styles into their musical. And, thanks to Director Wioncek’s intricate staging and Samantha Morrone’s fantastic choreography the many bodies flowed as one, some leaving the stage occasionally to mingle with audience members. All was so seamless as to be brilliant (as the British say, and I’m sure they would). In fact, that is what struck me the most–the actors seemed to be swimming on air. If someone was ever out-of-place, I sure didn’t see it. A couple of times I had to ask myself, “How did they do that?”

The lighting was great as it was, and I’ll say the same about the set, too. Both worked well for the staging and musical numbers. I guess I expected more psychedelic effects for this musical that I based totally on posters I had seen and for being alive at that time. Maybe I’m the one who had it wrong. After all this is the “new” HAIR. I am the first to admit HAIR is a complex show with a simple story, but some mind-boggling symbolism and even literary themes so I am likely to miss something.

There probably isn’t a one of us over the age of thirty that hasn’t heard at least one song from this musical even if you haven’t seen it before. I was in high school when this musical debuted on Broadway. HAIR is said to have helped to make our society more accepting and changed musical theatre to what we see today.

We’ve all been shocked to see something for the first time on stage. HAIR was just first. The Eagle Theatre version was powerful in music and sound. Intimate on its small stage. All the singers were superb. I have my favorites and you’ll have yours, but they are all excellent.

The Eagle Theatre’s production of HAIR was truly amazing to see the tribe and feel the music, and know the magic that is theatre–so much so, even the actors are caught up in their own little world (or seem to be). Let’s hope it’s just good acting. I attended a full-house opening night so don’t wait too long to get your tickets.

Book and Lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado
Music by Galt MacDermot
Directed by Ted Wioncek, III
Choreographed by Samantha Morrone
Musical Direction by Tom Abruzzo

April 19, 20, 25, 26, 27
May 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 at 8pm
April 28; May 5 at 3pm
The Eagle Theatre
208 Vine Street
Hammonton, NJ 08037
(609) 704-5012


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