It’s not for lack of bread, like the Grateful Dead…

Where do I even begin when talking about the production elements of Hair? It goes without saying that the show as a whole was fantastic. However, I believe the show would not have been nearly as effective without the excellent production team behind it.

To start, let’s talk about the lighting. This was by far, in my opinion, the most evident production element in the production. Several different colors were utilized throughout the show from several different angles. Hair itself is a lighting designer’s dream. A designer has nearly endless possibilities when considering lighting options. This production of Hair made great use of lighting in such songs as Walking in Space when it synchronized the light colors to the lyrics. Further, another one of my favorite lighting techniques was the lighting that reached out into the audience during Aquarius. It made the audience feel as if they were literally being swept up into the show. The cool color palette mixed with the, dare I say “groovy” patterns, greatly enhanced that “blast from the past” 1960’s setting for that song in particular. Even further, I very much support the decision to have two backspots on stage. In scenes with focal points, most focusing on Claude, the backspots were essential to creating areas where the eye would naturally be drawn.

Next, the scenery was key to the show. This production of Hair was set on a New York City rooftop. Of course, this would not be clear to the audience without the scenery on stage. The water tower built to house the on stage band was one of the best things I’ve seen in a long time. Not only did it allow for the band to play without being seen by the audience, but it also allowed for a piece of scenery to be put to good use. The Washington Square Arch, brick rooftop, and scaffolding all gave another dimension to the show. The set also increased interactivity with the audience. In the beginning of the show, audience members were invited to come on stage and write with chalks. This I thoroughly enjoyed becasue it gave the stage a different look and feel with every performance. The show you were watching was literally being shaped from the moment you walked in the theater. It was interesting to give the actors different heights with the scaffolding levels. At some points in the show, it seemed you couldn’t look anywhere on the stage without seeing someone dancing and singing their hearts out. So, I particularly enjoyed the scaffolding aspect of the scenic design.

Thirdly, I feel it necessary to speak on the video clips shown at several points during the production. From a Hazardous Waste projection during Breathe Deep, to Native American projections during Claude’s acid trip, to the powerful projections and sounds of army helicopters closer to the end of the play, every video clip added to the show gave it power. I especially liked the fact that the video clips gave a quick change of scenery. It was a rather easy transition to project an image onto the existing scenery, but the effects of the image gave the scenery a momentary transformation. It was great to see the resourcefulness of the production crew in this sense. I thought that the video clips just added that extra something special to the different scenes in which they were used.

There weren’t many props used in Hair, but the ones that were definitely served a purpose. The American flag used in Don’t Put it Down gave a very authentic feel to the song. The small tea lights used when the cast conjures Claude delivers an interesting feel to that portion of the play. A dark, black stage with only small tea lights for lighting is a beautiful set up. The conjuring of Claude was also a notable part to the production because no other scene in the musical is done like it. All other scenes have some sort of theatrical lighting clearly visible, but this one does not. Also, the flowers Crissy holds while she sings Frank Mills automatically gives her character and her song a sweet, innocent, almost vulnerable feel. It’s a small addition to that one song, but it tells the audience so much. Lastly, the yellow, satin shirt that Sheila presents to Berger is a key element to the show. It illustrates how volatile their relationship is. It also introduces the love interest between Sheila and Claude. In many ways, this shirt prompts a mutli-dimensional storyline that will continue throughout the rest of the production.

The costumes in this show were fantastic. I believe the costume that stood out the most for me was Woof Daschund’s. The furry vest that he wore accented his “wolf” persona. The army green color of Sheila’s outfit gave her a very patriotic feel from the moment she walked on stage. We later find out that she’s the freedom fighter of the group, but her costume was able to indicate that message much earlier in the production. Berger’s clothing, when he decides to keep it on, takes on a life of its own. Everything about his costume screams peace, love, and a LOT of freedom. Claude’s clothing is notable as well, especially his headband. The simple feather headband gives Claude’s character a Native American look. It illustrates how he’s slightly an outsider to the group. There’s something different about him. Later in the musical, when Claude says he wishes he was invisible, I thought this was even more symbolic of the Native American culture. He’s a unique individual, beaten down by the outside world and forced into a lifestyle that ultimately leads to his demise.

In conclusion, the show was an amazing production. The technical production and design crew should be very proud of all the work they accomplished on the show. I, my classmates, my friends, and random people I met on performance night all agreed that the show was worth watching not once, but multiple times. I heard one older couple on tech. night comment that they had seen Hair multiple times, including Broadway, and were still impressed by this particular interpretation. Don’t get me wrong, the actors put their hearts and souls into their performance, but the overall feel of the musical would have been lost without the work of Elon Performing Arts Department’s wonderful technical production and design crew. Once again, Hair was a wonderful show, and I thank everyone who played a part in its development for giving me the chance to witness something that will stay with me forever.

 

How to Succeed at a Blog Post

For this next entry, I’m supposed to choose a Broadway production and analyze the different ways in which it is produced via the wonderful world of YouTube. It would be a travesty for me not to choose How to Succeed…obviously. I love that show! So, here we go.

How to Succeed was first released on Broadway in  1961 and ran until 1965. It starred Robert Morse as J. Pierrepont Finch and Bonnie Scott as Rosemary. This particular production of How to Succeed won seven tony awards including distinguished musical actor (Robert Morse) and best musical. This was also the production that was later adapted to film in 1967 by United Artists. Most of the original Broadway cast was kept for the film save Michelle Lee who played the on-screen role of Rosemary. To illustrate the amazing Robert Morse and the film adaptation, here’s the video!

The production elements on this are of course slightly different from the original Broadway performance. However, YouTube doesn’t seem to be too forthcoming with any 1960’s theatrical footage. So, this video will have to do! I actually believe it adds to the conversation anyway since it’s interesting to think about what features of the theatrical production were taken away/added to create the film. In this clip, it’s obvious to see that the overall “Broadway” feel of the performance is toned down for the sake of cinema. The set of the film adaptation is probably the most significant difference. In the video clip, the set looks much too realistic (Hollywood style flats) to be featured on Broadway.

Next, there was a Broadway revival from 1995-1996 starring Matthew Broderick as Finch and Megan Mullally as Rosemary. The production elements in this performance are interesting because it seems that it almost completely strayed from the original staging. Side note: I’ll mention that my next two video clips are the H2$ performances at the Tony Awards. But back to the production elements…the background image is very simple. The only thing they really have to back up this particular performance is the giant H2$ symbol featured behind the cast. Other than that, they pretty much rely on talent (and Lillias White’s outstanding voice). I will say I found it fascinating how very different it was from the original. But I’ll stop talking about it now, and just let you see for yourself.

Last but certainly not least, the 2011 Broadway revival starring Daniel Radcliffe as Finch and Rose Hemingway as Rosemary. You probably get tired of hearing about it, but this is the first and ONLY Broadway show I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. So, excuse if I’m biased, but it’s kind of my favorite. This show, I can say from watching it in person, uses quite a few fly-in pieces of scenery and standard flats. However, I’ve also noticed that this version of H2$ and the 1995 revival have several similarities. They both use larger flats with several colors of lighting. Though, it’s notable to see that even the 2011 version shows slightly more complex background scenery shapes and color schemes. Of course, the similarities between the 1994 and 2011 revivals are probably due to advancements in theatrical production since the 1960’s.

And since I’m sticking with the Tony Award performances, here’s H2$ at the 65th Annual Tony Awards.