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Groundbreaking '60s musical ‘HAIR’ continues through April 18
Sunday, February 01, 2015

Groundbreaking '60s musical ‘HAIR’ continues through April 18

The Department of Theatre and Dance, in association with the School of Music, continues the 2014-15 Walter Gloor Mainstage Series at the State University of New York at Fredonia with its production of a groundbreaking musical.“HAIR - The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical” opens Friday, April 10 in Marvel Theatre on the Fredonia campus for a six-show run.

The director is Jessica Hillman, an associate professor of theater who also directed 2011’s sold-out production of “The Sound of Music.”

     Watch the promotional video for "Hair."

Dates and show times are Friday, April 10 and Saturday, April 11 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, April 12 at 2:00 p.m. and Thursday, April 16 through Saturday, April 18 at 7:30 p.m. With adult themes, implied drug use and brief nudity, the show is recommended for mature audiences only.

“‘HAIR’ is a unique piece of theater. It’s totally different than anything I’ve directed before. It’s an event more than a traditional show,” Hillman said. “It has a diverse score that was embraced by many – and for good reason. Those who come for the musical experience won’t be disappointed.”

With music by Galt MacDermot and book/lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni, “HAIR” made its Broadway debut in 1968. “It packs a real punch. The music has emotional power,” Hillman said. “That’s the strength of musical theater.” Centered on the hippie counter movement, the sexual revolution and the protests against the war in Vietnam, “HAIR” is considered to be a groundbreaking work because it defined the rock musical genre.

“It’s not a museum piece,” Hillman said. “All of the issues – race, war, culture clashes – are still relevant today. The show makes an incredibly strong statement that still resonates today. It’s not stuck in the sixties.”

“HAIR” tells the story of the “tribe,” a group of hippies living in New York City in the late 1960s. The members of the tribe are politically active and preoccupied with fighting against the military draft in the face of the war in Vietnam. “These are not cynical characters,” Hillman said. “They are filled with hope that they can change the world.”

Following its successful debut in 1967, “HAIR” moved to Broadway in April of 1968. There, it began a run of 1,750 performances and spawned an original cast recording that sold three million copies. Popular songs from the show included the title track, which was recorded by The Cowsills in 1969 and went to number 2 on the Billboard singles chart. Other hits from the show included “Good Morning Starshine,” which went to number 3 in the U.S. for singer Oliver, and “Easy to Be Hard,” which was a number 4 hit for the group Three Dog Night.

The Broadway run was followed by a tour that included almost 2,000 performances across the United States and in London. A Broadway revival was staged in 2009. It earned strong reviews and a Tony Award for best revival of a musical. A successful U.S. toured followed in 2010.

More than 100 students are involved in Fredonia’s Mainstage production, including a cast of 24 and a 13-piece band, which will be in costume and on stage. The show will frequently breach the “fourth wall,” with characters venturing out among the audience. Hillman noted the premise is that a troupe of actors and musicians has taken over the theater in order to hold a “be-in.”

Auditions for the student cast were in August 2014 and design work began in September. Hillman noted that great efforts have been made to capture the look and feel of the 1960s. The scenic designer is Czerton Lim, assistant theatre professor, while student Noel O’Day is the costume designer and student Justin Petito, the lighting designer. “This is not a cliché, cartoon world that is all tie-dye. It’s meant to be the real 1968,” she said. The musical director is Raymond Stewart, associate professor of music, while student Colin Braeger is the sound designer.

In February, rehearsals began in earnest. “The students are a joy to work with,” Hillman said. “We have professional level talent here.”

In the end, the director hopes audiences will walk away with something to think about. “Theater has the potential to get people to question assumptions and perhaps change how they think about certain subjects,” Hillman said. “‘HAIR’ was trying to wake people up in 1968 – to get their senses fully engaged. I think it is still capable of doing that.”

Tickets are available through the Fredonia Ticket Office in the Williams Center, by phone at 673-3501 and online.

“HAIR - The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical” is sponsored by M&T Bank as part of the Lake Shore Savings Season.

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