When Repertory Philippines (REP) announced that it is staging “Hair” as its 2017 year-end grand musicale, it certainly wasn’t bluffing. Hair, the Tony award-winning tribal love-rock musical as presented by REP is pleasingly irreverent and daring as it tells the story of a “tribe” made up of politically active, long-haired youths set during the time of the hippie culture. Its off-Broadway debut and subsequent Broadway run were met with much controversy because of the play’s use of profanity, nude scenes, and depiction of illegal drug use but Hair is largely credited for defining the rock-musical genre.
REP relives the rocking spirit of the 60’s through a story that centers on a group of twenty-somethings of New York City who band together to form a tribe referred to as the hippies. Theirs is a cry of protest against the Vietnam War and approval of the practice of free love over traditional marriage, thus the anti-war slogan “Make Love, Not War”. The play is considered groundbreaking for its fearless depiction of the decade’s stark realities.
Into the Spirit
The audience was put into the spirit of what we are about to watch even before we entered the theater. Cast members chanting the “Hare Krishna” mantra apparently went around the immediate area of Greenbelt Onstage to signal the start of the presentation. This continued up until the audience has fully settled down so by the time the play started, everyone has zoned in to the tumultuous 1960’s era.
In REP’s version of this award-winning production, Markki Stroem alternates with Topper Fabregas as Claude with George Schulze as Berger, Caisa Borromeo as Sheila, and a stellar cast of young performers. Chris Millado directs the grand musicale with Ejay Yatco as musical director. The story follows native Oklahoma farm boy Claude, who meets the energetic, irrepressible tribe of Central Park hippies on his way to enlist in the US Army. This free-spirited tribe, led by the charismatic Berger, inspires Claude to rebel against the war, his parents, and society, and to assert love, peace and freedom.
The strength pf this play obviously lies in the musical score in addition to stellar performances of every cast member. The angst and energy of the era is captured in the show’s amazing musical score with classic hits like “Let the Sun Shine In,” “Aquarius,” and “Good Morning Starshine.” Hair even won the 1969 Grammy Award for Best Score from An Original Cast Show Album, while its 2009 Broadway revival earned the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. An interesting treat is given to the audience via surprise guest theater stars joining the cast in performing the introduction song “Aquarius”. It was Mig Ayesa who graced the show on the day that we watched.
I must say that this is the most daring play that I have watched in terms of story line, language, and actions. Younger members of the audience will need parental guidance to set the viewing in its proper perspective. Having said that, I cannot help myself from appreciating the true commitment to the craft that is present in every line uttered, in every movement made on that stage.
Hair, the Musical is as real as life itself.