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Review: "Hair" at Capital Playhouse

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"HAIR": Director Heidi Fredericks pretty much nails it at Capital Playhouse. Photo credit: Facebook

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The musical Hair is much like a jam band concert: it's multi-sensual, it elicits an emotional ride, and it's probably about 15 minutes too long. That said, director Heidi Fredericks shakes every last nugget from Hair's theatrical dime bag at Capital Playhouse.

If directors are reading, please take note of a trait I've always admired about Fredericks. From the moment we walk into the lobby, Hair's already begun. Members of its teenage hippie "tribe" offer to paint flowers on our faces while we wait for tickets. Over the course of the show, we're entertained by sight and sound, but also by smell and touch. Earnest young actors invite us to a be-in and pull us on stage for a curtain call dance rendition of "Let the Sun Shine In." For over two hours, we're welcomed entirely into Hair's world. That obsessive attention to detail is the key to a memorable show.

There's no questioning the difficulty of the material, for this company or its audience. The script is not, shall we say, overburdened with plot, and the lyrics must be hell to memorize, let alone sing. When Leonard Bernstein griped, "The songs are just laundry lists," he had a point. But is any song in the Broadway canon more irresistible than "Let the Sun Shine In?" It lifts itself out of a dirge, "The Flesh Failures," that's as lovely (and hauntingly worded) as "Sun Shine" is bright and beatific.

Yes, the show wants to push your buttons. It wants to overwhelm and challenge you and flip you its middle finger and love you. And thanks to a marvelous young cast, Capital Playhouse's production is so damn cute that what you really want to do is buy it a PB&J and a milkshake. It's a production informed by both the Summer of Love and Olympia's spirit. It acknowledges the sadness and loneliness that feeds a countercultural movement. But the young people in Hair aren't rebelling against American culture (or their parents, upon whom they're largely dependent), they're moving outward in search of a new family, a family who lets them be exactly as they imagine they are. And it's groovy, man ... groovy.

At the risk of singling out performers in a gifted ensemble, Jacob Hoff finds his inner Jim Morrison as Berger. (His self-absorbed delivery reminds us that in the late 1960s, it was easier for shitty poets like Morrison to get themselves deified.) Jeff Barehand's a find as Woof, the giggly dreamer who isn't gay but lusts for Mick Jagger. Bruce Haasl does a swaggering riff on his Jesus Christ Superstar, and Rochelle Morris lends her full-bodied pipes to "Aquarius." Tech and band credits are solid throughout.

A day later, Hair's music and overall mood linger on. From my perspective, it isn't just about what it was like to be young for a moment in history; it's about being part of our present-day theater tribe. Life on the boards is a godless religion, in which candor and beauty are worshipped, Shakespeare is canon, and sensuality is prayer. If you're averse to casual nudity or the funky perfume of Mary Jane, then it's a life you may never understand. But if you're part of our tribe-and you'll know one way or the other when you walk in the door-you can never abandon it fully. You may find a grownup job and get married and devote your time to family and home, but you'll know who you are deep inside.


Through Feb. 19, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday
2 p.m. Sunday, $28-$39
Capital Playhouse, 612 E. Fourth Ave., Olympia

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Comments for "Review: "Hair" at Capital Playhouse" (1)

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alec clayton said on Feb. 03, 2012 at 8:20am

Hey Carv, I wish I could steal your line about PB&J and a milkshake.

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