Entertainment, like politics can be totally subjective. What one person thinks is remarkable another will think is superficial. Critics of either of these disciplines have differing tastes, experiences, and opinions, so their evaluations are merely a suggestion of what may entertain or enlighten you. While it is true that there are people who have studied or worked in the theater and do know something, it doesn’t mean that they will feel the same way that you will about any production. But the important thing is that, with the cost of a theater or movie ticket, you have some idea of what to expect, and then you can decide on whether you want to invest the time and money for the show. With this in mind, let me introduce you to the ‘what’s in it for me,’ entertainment blog, “Bulletins Over Broadway” – I haven’t really decided on a name, and all suggestions are welcome. The blog will rate venues with a “What’s in it for me” scale with 1 being nothing, don’t waste your time. 2 being, I was entertained, and 3 being, I was moved and enlightened and it changed my life.
Before I begin my critique I will take you back a few years. In the early 90s, despite heavy artillery fire, young Croatian, Bosnian, and Serbian performers risked their lives to make their way to a small make shift theater in the middle of Sarajevo, to perform the musical “Hair”. The theater, had no electricity or heat, but it did have a standing room only audience, that made their way through the same treacherous streets to attend one of the two daily performances. The Los Angeles Times wrote “A Sarajevo troupe's adaptation of the 1968 anti-war musical "Hair" has survived a year of bombardment to become a symbol of this integrated city's defiance of death and division.”
It seems “Hair”, which, like “Rent” is a symbol of the times, was also a statement about the search for love and peace, and making difficult personal decisions. It also transcends generations and geography. Viet Nam, like Iraq, was based on many lies and the ability for old men to send young men and women to fight a war which ultimately benefited only those old men—and their friends. No one quite understands why, but still it goes on and on. That being said (and yes, I did have to say it), it is impossible not to be moved by what happens on and off the stage in this latest production of “Hair” at the Hirschfeld Theater in NY. The production is happily interactive, with the characters not only making entrances and exits through the audience, inviting the audience to come up on stage for the reprise of “Let the Sun Shine,” but also making comments, touching and having conversation with individuals in the audience. In other words, if you can dance, get ready to be part of the play, but don’t be late because Berger (Will Swenson) the charming and sometimes “you just want to smack him” lead, will call you out about it.
The music remains memorable and moving. The ‘tribe’ – is perfection in their musical pleas for justice, love, and peace. Allison Case as Crissy breaks our heart with her plea to “Frank Mills” to forget the two dollars he borrowed and come back. Although we’re rooting for him to flee the country, we understand Claude’s (Gavin Creel) reluctance to dodge the draft. Andrew Kober is a hoot as Margaret Mead, and the Dad. Megan Lawrence who plays the opinionated and unforgiving mother is truly irritating in the way she should be as an ‘over 30’ parent. Cassie Levy (Sheila) is not as passionate as she might be as Sheila , but as a member of the tribe she’s fine. The tribe is energetic and works in concert to make all the music a statement about confronting life changing issues – as we knew them then and in some regard, know them now.
To be perfectly frank, I cannot listen to any version of “Let the Sun Shine” without tearing up. Part of it is the music and part is the memories, but when I hear the first note, I am jello in my seat. Although staying in my seat is never an option. And while I did not go up on the stage with the rest of the crowd (they do provide even the balcony and mezzanine with a way to do that), it is impossible for me to sit and listen. I just have to move with that music, which I did with legions of other people standing in the aisles. In the ‘what’s in it for me’ rating I would absolutely give it a 3. We’re just sayin’….Iris