“Hair” brings Broadway to Cullowhee

“The Terrence Mann musicals here are fantastic, they’re better than any college plays have any right being,” said theater goer Mark Tyson, who had just come back with his wife Denise Tyson from Hamilton in Chicago a week ago.

“Terrence Mann brings Broadway to Cullowhee,” added his wife Denise Tyson.

Book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni, Music by Galt McDermot, Directed by Terrence Mann, Musical Direction by Katya Stanislavskaya, Choreography by Ashley Wasmund. Found on Western Carolina University’s official website.

Western Carolina University’s Stage & Screen has finished off their mainstage season with “Hair”, running from April 5 to April 9.

As written by the Reporter, ““Hair” tells the story of the Tribe, a group of long-haired and politically active hippies in the Age of Aquarius who are living a bohemian lifestyle in New York City. A member of that group, Claude, faces the tough decision of whether to resist the draft as his friends have done or to give in to social and familial pressures to serve in Vietnam. Claude, his good friend Berger, their roommate Sheila and all their friends struggle to balance their young lives, loves and the sexual revolution with their opposition to the war and a society with which they stand at odds.”

Upon seeing the show, the description is accurate. Balancing their personal lives as these young adults are rebelling against the Vietnam draft, getting high, and protesting are core elements of the show. The political discourse for the audience was quite literally in their faces as the ensemble interacted, removed their own clothing in the aisles (one cast member gave an audience member their pants briefly), and sang passionately at the edge of the stage almost into the audiences faces. Flowing from song to song, eventually the show transitions into a character’s mind for his surreal hallucinations on a bad drug trip and the emotional turmoil behind that as it snaps back to reality.

The choreography was incredible. Performers slid down railings and danced all over spinning platforms even with their large ensemble moving around them. The show is concert like in how it goes from brief dialogue to song back and forth and back and forth, which might be difficult to stage but what was shown seemed effortless. The musicianship was equally spectacular, with harmonies in every song sounding just as crisp and clear as their melodies. It was acted with a superb and personal intensity. The costumes were accurate to their period and fun, many with form fitting clothing, tie-dye shirts, fake fur, and more.

The audiences were thrilled with the performance.

“Let me put it this way, I don’t like “Hair,” said Mark Tyson. “I don’t think it’s a good play. I’ve seen two previous professional productions of Hair and the only reason I came to (Cullowhee) is because (Denise) wanted to see it…and this was far better than the other two. I don’t like Les Mis, until I saw it here and I went, “wow, what a great production.” There’s just some magic that these kids and Terrence Mann manage to do that you just don’t get in a lot of places. I just don’t think people here in western North Carolina really understand what a gem this is.”

One audience member linked it to current day problems.

“I really thought (the show) was amazing, the numbers were just really captivating, and you could really connect it to what’s going on in today’s society. It’s definitely eye opening,” said Malik Rowland, drawing parallels between the 1960s and today. “…there’s talk of war, a lot of different movements (like Black Lives Matter), and rioting.”

This was the last show for many students in the cast, as many are seniors graduating in May.

“There are a lot of seniors in the cast. This was our last show, so (performing was) very challenging. College is a nice little bubble…and I think anyone who’s graduating college can understand that it’s very scary no matter what career you go in. Going into the real world, learning how to survive…the end (of the show) is very hard,”said Logan Marks, lead role of Claud and senior who got emotional with the audience that stayed for an after-show talk. “…and it’s hard because they’re your cast mates and especially hard because…this show is so relevant and so strong. When you’re looking at everyone as your family, and I came here from Boston not knowing anyone… in over four years these people became my friends, my group – they’re truly my family…there’s 26 days until we graduate. It’s like exciting, but it’s so hard to – dare I say – let go.”

Before the post show talk, the entire cast gathered for an emotional group hug – these performers will be missed.