Believe it, 'Hair' is the full-on Age of Aquarius in Aurora
THEATER REVIEW: "Hair" at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora ★★★
"Hair" is at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Aurora. (March 19, 2012)
But there we all were and here it all was, uncensored and unabashed: "Donna," "Hashish," "Sodomy," "White Boys," "Black Boys" and, aptly enough, "Let the Sunshine In."
Adrian Aguilar's Berger, for example, is not some preening font of hairy masculine rebellion but a likable, sweet-voiced kid, trying on a role. And Skyler Adams as Claude (along with Bethany Thomas, who sings an exquisite "Aquarius") is by far the leading vocal light of these proceedings; he has the right blend of sweetness and denial. This rich identity makes this confused young man from Flushing's escape into the alternate identity of a hipster from "Manchester, England, England" unusually logical.
Rockwell's visual conception is very East Village — you could do "Rent" easily enough on Kevin Depinet's narrow encampment, surrounded by lights and backed by a soaring but shrewdly textured and muted video wall from projection maestro Mike Tutaj. There's the echo of an Occupy Wall Street protest — these young flower children don't so much flutter around the theater, which is the current vogue with "Hair," but cling nervously together. And given that none of them really know where they are going or where the truth lies in a hostile-to-them world, it should be exactly thus. Rockwell takes the show directly to the seats, but she also has imbued these proceedings with a sense of needy ensemble: the cast members play in the aisles, but they're constantly looking for each other. That's what makes the show so warm and lovable.
I wouldn't say that all the ballads soar as they could (although Adams' "Where Do I Go?" is hugely powerful). Nor has Rockwell solved all the transitions in this episodic musical. Before the famous nude scene, actors suddenly disrobe (and I mean suddenly) without it being clear exactly why they want to show us their bodies, lovely as they may be, beyond the expectation in the script. And in the difficult, bizarre sections early in Act 2, the episodes of this disjointed narrative have a few thuds and dead spots in their crucial connective tissue, which is not atypical with "Hair." You do not, though, find any such stutters in Doug Peck's musical direction. The score sounds great.
And once Claude shows up in his uniform, the show finds the necessary rhythms and everyone nails the last 20 minutes. The very striking audience response Sunday seemed to flow, more than anything, from the shared sense that something was, and is, at stake. Even on a beautiful afternoon.
When: Through April 1
Where: Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora
Running time: 2 hours, 15 mins.
Tickets: $34.90-$46.90 at 630-896-6666 or paramountaurora.com