Theater review: Despite rousing score, ‘Hair’ gets too tangled by outdated book

For the third time in a little more than a year, the Capital Region is being treated to this musical

For the third time in a little more than a year, the Capital Region is being treated to this musical museum piece.

Why? Because of Galt MacDermot’s everlasting score. It’s fantastic. It’s iconic. It’s the soundtrack of a generation and the wished-for soundtrack of many other generations.

But unfortunately, the book just can’t make the time leap. The current production at Cohoes Music Hall doesn’t solve the book issue — no one can. But the score? It has seldom sounded better.

The score to the show hasn’t aged a bit. But Old Father Time has not been kind to the book of “Hair,” the story of the 1960s hippie counter-culture. While the message and themes of the music still ring true, they are hopelessly trapped in a storyline that now seems twee and tired. The chants and slogans once sailed out with rage and anger but now land sad, not stirring.


WHERE: Cohoes Music Hall, 58 Remsen St., Cohoes

WHEN: Through May 20

HOW MUCH: $35 to $25

MORE INFO: 237-5858,

The second act wanders aimlessly (and endlessly) to an inevitable and obvious conclusion. The sex seems tame, the nudity no longer startles and the slips of sacrilege slapped at organized religion prove lame and limp. But despite the dated script, the struggle of young people trying to forge a path to the future that doesn’t destroy their dreams or deny their humanity is eternal and must be celebrated and embraced.

More tension needed

And here lies the issue with this production — it is overly reverent. Gone is the dirt and danger. This tribe is so fresh-faced and well-scrubbed, how could they be threatening? Running into the audience and climbing along a row of theater seats telling everyone you love them and offering them “peace” is hardly alarming. Sounds more like church.

Gone too, is most of the drama. The tension and conflict that should pervade in order to incite action seems forced and ironically, inorganic. So fresh and friendly is this tribe of dropouts, one guesses they didn’t drop out of high school, but from employment at a Disney theme park. Let the growth of facial hair commence!

In order to perform in the Enchanted Kingdom, you need to be able to sing, and sing they can. Tunisia Renee knocks the opening anthem “Aquarius” right out of the park, Alison Cusano rails out on “Easy to Be Hard” with just the right pain and Amanda Nicole Marasch disarms and charms with “Frank Mills.” The rest of the tribe does magnificent work with the title tune and a shockingly chilling “Three-Five-Zero-Zero.” and the finale of “Let the Sun Shine In” makes the honest emotional connection that eludes most of the show.

As noted earlier, director Janie Wallace’s dramatic approach to the piece is too meek and unassuming, but she shows clever flourish with inventive staging, most notably during the drug trip in the second act.

For a show that needs to involve and invite the audience into the action, Jen Price Fick’s set proves problematic with its low wall running the width of the stage. Although functional and used reasonably well by Wallace’s staging, it does perplex as it creates a needless “us” and “them” situation. Matthew J. Fick’s lighting nearly walks away with the show with its inspired balance of sunshine and shadow.

With this most recent production of “Hair.” it may be time to give it a rest. Time doesn’t heal everything. If another theater company assumes it “just must” be done again this year, next year, some year, a concert version would be just grand.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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