“Hair” is coming to the Schenectady Light Opera Company stage this month, and while some members of the cast might do a little late-show improvising when it comes to baring all, Nick Muscatiello is ready to take the plunge.
“I’m pretty fearless, so I’m going to jump right in,” said Muscatiello, who plays George Berger in the classic rock musical about hippies, drug-use, war protests and public nudity in the raucous 1960s. “Many of our performers will be completely naked as part of a protest action in the show. So I’m going to do it, come what may.”
Not every cast member, however, will follow suit.
WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera Company, 427 Franklin St., Schenectady
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through March 20
HOW MUCH: $28-$18
MORE INFO: 1-877-350-7378, www.sloctheater.org
‘Measure for Measure’
WHERE: Schenectady Civic Playhouse, 12 S. Church St., Schenectady
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through March 20; show times are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $17
MORE INFO: 382-2081, www.civicplayers.org
“We agreed to make it voluntary for cast members,” said SLOC president Tom Della Salla, “and if people are coming for the nudity they’re going to be sorely disappointed. It’s just the last five minutes of the show, and there are a lot of flashing lights and back lighting. Everybody will take something off and some people will take everything off, but you’re not going to see a lot. It’s not like they’re parading slowly around the stage.”
Getting the OK
Della Salla made sure the city of Schenectady officials would have no problem with the nudity. During the term of Republican mayor Al Jurczynski in 2003, members of the national touring company of “The Full Monty” had to wear “modesty garments” during a well-publicized nude scene.
“We had questions, and we wondered about a city ordinance or something, but we checked with the city and they’re fine with it,” said Della Salla. “Once the corporation counsel said it was clearly artistic expression, we decided to go ahead. We wanted to be true to the script.”
James Rado and Gerome Ragni wrote the book and lyrics to “Hair,” and Galt MacDermott provided the music. Rado and Ragni were also the stars of the show (Rado played Claude and Ragni was Berger), which was nominated for two Tonys (Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical) after it opened on Broadway in April of 1968.
A 2009 revival did even better during the award season, earning eight Tony nominations and getting one win for Best Revival of a Musical.
Muscatiello hasn’t seen a stage production, and has only watched a few clips from the 1979 movie with Treat Williams portraying Berger.
“I want my performance to be as original as possible so I haven’t seen the movie, but I did see a few Youtube videos of Treat Williams singing,” said Muscatiello. “He was pretty cool, but I did not watch the entire movie. I try to stay away from watching something that I’m in, especially if I haven’t seen it before.”
As for the nudity, Muscatiello says it’s a relevant part of the show.
“The play is making a statement, and we’re doing the nudity in the service of that statement,” said Muscatiello. “We’re saying we’re human beings, and we don’t deserve to be sent off to war, forced to kill people and then die. I think the nudity helps the scene be very effective.”
Sharing the stage with Muscatiello are Will Heatley as Claude, Jennifer Lefsyk as Sheila, Elizabeth Sherwood-Mack as Dionne. Michael Gatzendorfer is directing.
Also opening Friday night is the Schenectady Civic Players production of Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure,” directed by Aaron Holbritter.
The story of a duke, played by Robin MacDuffie, who disguises himself to witness the deterioration of his people, is a Shakespeare comedy believed to have been first produced in 1604.
“It’s about a duke who has lost control of his city, so he decides to leave and go under cover to see what has been happening,” said MacDuffie. “Shakespeare wrote a lot of good plays and this is one of them. I’ve talked to many people who say this one is their favorite.”
Also in the cast are Andrew Vroman as Angelo and Laura Graver as Isabella.
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]