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.