'Hair' that never goes out of style
Published: Friday, April 5, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 4:14 p.m.
The age of Aquarius dawned a long, long time ago. Since then, the world has changed. Long hair is no longer a political symbol or cultural poke in the eye. Nudity on stage has been done over and over again. Hippies have become museum pieces, like the flappers and zoot-suited daddies of yore.
What: National Broadway tour of Tony Award-winning musical set in the '60s
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Phillips Center, 3201 Hull Road
Tickets: $30-$50, $15
Perhaps it is even more impressive then, that the musical “Hair” continues to fascinate and delight audiences. It takes quality writing to become a cultural timepiece, and “Hair” is just that.
The Tony Award-winning touring production of the musical hits the Phillips Center on Monday.
When it premiered in 1968, “Hair” was groundbreaking. It defined the rock 'n' roll musical, while all but capturing the turbulent 1960s in a bottle with depictions of profanity, illegal drugs, sexuality, irreverence for the American flag, a racially integrated cast and a freewheeling approach to sexuality (including a nude scene).
Combined with the grand finale where the audience was invited on stage for a “Be-In,” and with impossibly catchy songs like “Aquarius,” “Let the Sunshine In” and “Good Morning Starshine,” the effect was massive.
So massive, in fact, that people are still growing up on the musical, including Noah Plomgren, who plays Claude in the current production.
“My mom bought me the cast recording of the soundtrack when I was little, so I grew up singing all the songs,” Plomgren says. “I got this gig pretty much right out of college. I was incredibly lucky. Hopefully there's more of that luck to come.”
Plomgren believes one reason the musical has lasted so long is that its subject matter is still relevant.
“It is in its way a period piece,” he says. “But, I think all of the themes are still incredibly relevant today. The show is about a big group of young people fighting for what they believe in, in terms of war, in terms of race, in terms of equality, in terms of what so many people are still fighting for today. The message of love and peace — that will never get old.”
Perhaps another reason the current production connects with audiences is because Plomgren and company try to put their own stamp on it.
“I tried to stay away from any previous incarnations of the show,” he says. “We treated this as if it was our own production.”
Of course, doing eight shows a week while on tour helps achieve that goal.
“It's been very difficult,” Plomgren says. “We don't stay in one place for too long. Physically, you have to stay in good shape, especially after sitting on a bus all day long. I don't know of any show that's more physically demanding. The first half hour, it's just mass chaos and people jumping around. Mentally, too, to get into the show, it can be easy doing eight shows a week to just go on autopilot sometimes and not invest yourself, so you have to make sure you stay invested.”
Ultimately, Plomgren says that the hard work and sacrifice have been worth his time and effort.
“It's grueling,” he says, “but it's also amazing.”
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