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"HAIR: The Tribal Rock Musical

Reviewed by Dean Rhodus for KMPH FOX 26

Monday, March 21, 2010

Musical Theaterworks Fresno is currently offering a production of "HAIR", the tribal rock musical.  It is being offered at the Memorial Auditorium on March 19th, 20th, 25th, 26th and 27th at 7:30PM, with matinees at 2PM on the 20th and the 27th.  It would be a very good thing if you could find the time to go see one of these performances.  If you remember that era, you will be reminded of things and feelings you may have forgotten, and if you do not remember that era you will get a glimpse of a very important time in our national history, if not the world's.  It is, however, not a history lesson.

I want to get right to the point here.  Right from the incense that permeates the theater as one enters, to the energy that permeates the performance, this is a fun production.  The production values are far more than acceptable; that includes lighting, costuming, sound, hair and make-up, which all go a long way in returning one to a time when, like Camelot, there was a real moment, when right made might, however brief.  All this is accomplished with limited budget in a non-professional company.  What then has made up for these economic realities?

The concept and staging by Heather Parish has captured not just the outward appearance of the 60's and 70's, but the internal spirit of a movement.  I like her caring and sincerity.  She was very ably assisted by Steve Souza, who did not resort to a caricature of the dancing and movements of the time, but gave us real body language.  Between he and Heather, the show was infused with an energy that honestly portrayed the breakout-release mentality against the status quo that I remember.  The mantra of the day was "Never trust anyone over 30."  The youthfulness of the performers' energy recalled that wonderfully.

There are of course standout moments in the performance.  The "in your face" verbiage of "Sodomy," Jamie Briceno as Margaret Meade, the Frank Mills moment is good in terms of a show not taking itself so seriously that it has no sense of humor,  the heartfelt performances of every performer on stage, the "togetherness" of the ensemble singing and dancing, the "Walking in Space" lighting,  "Give up all desires" and "What a piece of work" were both very affective, Rob Lippert's "Eyes look your last," and most of all, "Let the Sunshine In", which deeply moved me.  I was touched by these sweet young performers, giving their all, saying those words, singing those lyrics, so hard, so radical, so rebellious.  It was exactly the energy and spirit of that age.

When you go (notice how subtly I encourage you), you'll carry away with you many engaging moments, made more poignant by noticing the pictures hanging on the walls of the Memorial.  They will hopefully bring focus to the idea that this entire era was a serious, heartfelt attempt at peace.  It was naïve.  It was self indulgent.  But it was honest and lingers still in some places and hearts, and makes the pictures on the walls, haunting and thought provoking.  Go, you'll see what I mean; and I think you'll think your effort was positively worth it!

PS……..Thanks to all those who keep this company going.

"Hair" continues through March 27th at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Downtown Fresno.  Shows begin at 7:30p.m., with one 2:30p.m. matinee.  Tickets range from $12-22.  For more information, visit www.musicaltheaterworks.org.

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