Soul singing, peace loving, flower power-tripping hippies have taken over Tomlinson Theater stage for what can only be described as the most powerful performance I’ve had the pleasure of seeing at Temple University.
HAIR, originally a Broadway production coining the “rock musical” genre, controversially centers around a group of teenagers during the Vietnam War that are try to find themselves within their own sexual, interracial and illegal drug revolution.
The cast, or “Tribe” as they would prefer to be called, is primarily comprised of musical theatre students within Temple’s theater department. They recreate the authenticity of being young in 1968, with their characters preferring psychedelics and making love over war.
If the bohemian costumes, the vivid backdrop and intricate set don’t immediately pull you in, you will certainly be enchanted by the end of the first song. The powerful ballad, “Age of Aquarius,” features the empowering vocals of freshman Paige Smallwood, who can belt it like Beyoncé. If these things don’t grab your attention, then it will be Berger (played by Griffin Black) who will make you laugh harder in the first five minutes than you have all week.
If you’re not ready to help someone take his or her clothes off, pose in a photo, or join in on the fun on stage, sitting in the back row might be best for you. Crowd interaction is a big part of this production – the closer you are, the more fun you’ll have. The Tribe does an incredible job spreading its hippie love far beyond the stage, so the play’s positive message becomes a tangible item you can bring home.
However, it’s not all acid trips and orgies. Although these fun-loving hippies seem to be full of life, there are many internal struggles, and none are so greatly present as those within the lead character Claude, (played by senior Cameron Scot Slusser).
Claude has the longest hair and the most vibrancy. He seems to revel in life and is ready to fully immerse himself in the “psychedelic stone age.” However, Claude’s parents have a different agenda, as they want him to “join the fight” and enlist in the war effort. Cameron does an incredible job of emoting the internal struggle within his character. Through Claude, he recreates the essence of what many of us deal with again and again throughout life: Wanting to be completely free. Cameron’s voice is worth the ticket alone, stealing moments as he hits high-pitched notes.
In a cast of 24, it’s hard to single out every exceptional performance. Sometimes people just slip into the background of a large cast. But by the second time I saw HAIR, I focused my attention on every single member of the Tribe at least once, since each and every person demanded and deserved attention. Each solo is engaging, but nothing compares to the entire cast working together and giving it their all. Everyone’s unique voices meshed together leave a chill-inducing effect and you will have songs like “Let the Sun Shine In” and “Hair” stuck in your head for days after.
A good musical isn’t just something that entertains you for two hours – it’s something that makes you look at the world from a different perspective, even if it’s just for a short time. But the play also has the ability to stay with you for much longer. HAIR is an amazing yet simple reminder that we all need a little love in life, and that we can share the love with each other.
There are only a few performance days left (Friday, April 4 at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 5 at 9 p.m. or Sunday, April 6 at 2 p.m.), so start your spring on a good note and see this truly inspiring production of HAIR.