Bartell Theatre, through March 24
The opening-night performance of Strollers Theatre's Hair sometimes felt a bit shaggy and messy. But the energetic cast threw themselves into their roles, capturing the essence of this '60s musical and the era it came from. It would be easy for a modern revival of Hair to seem stilted, with its meager plot: A ragtag bunch of hippies in New York protest the Vietnam War, freely love each other, get naked and take a multitude of drugs. But the actors tackle the material with abandon, so it feels sincere rather than forced.
The show has so many songs (24 in Act I alone) that, if you're not enjoying one, the next may be more to your liking. Standout numbers are the angry, swaggering 'Ain't Got No,' 'Frank Mills' (with cherubic Selena Warsaw-Lane as Crissy) and the genuinely hilarious dueling songs 'Black Boys' and 'White Boys,' with inspired choreography by Susan Gustaf. The trippy 'Abie, Baby' is another high point.
Paul Milisch, as Berger, conveys bravado and a feral sexuality. Andy Ortman, as Claude, doesn't have the strongest voice, but convincingly portrays his doomed character's conflict about serving in Vietnam. Keysha Monique Mabra brings strength and warmth to Sheila, and her 'Easy to Be Hard' gave me goosebumps. I looked forward to her take on 'Good Morning Starshine,' but she has to sing it at an awkward angle, tangled up in a giant bed as Berger and Claude caress her. This may have made it more challenging for her to get her lovely voice around the song.
I'm rarely a fan of actors spilling out into the audience, but in this staging it seems less contrived. I still sat scrunched down in my seat praying they wouldn't approach me, but other audience members were more free-spirited than I and danced in the aisles. Luckily, their clothes stayed on.