(Host) The groundbreaking rock musical Hair is being performed this week at Rutland’s Paramount Theater.
As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, the musical’s director says the anti war and counter culture theme of the show remains relevant forty years after its premiere.
(Keck) When theater goers first saw the musical Hair back in 1968, critics and audiences weren’t sure what to make of it. It was a whole new type of Broadway experience where rock music combined with political activism, vulgar language, nudity and sex.
(Patorti) "There’s lots of shock elements to Hair – yeah – absolutely – everyone assumes its’ all those bright beautiful songs we know – Aquarius and Good morning Star Shine but there are some big turns in the road dealing with reality yeah."
(Keck) Jacob Patorti, who’s producing and directing the show at the Paramount, says Hair tells the story of a group of 20 young people living in New York’s Central Park. These hippies – resplendent in bellbottoms, fake fir vests, fringed leather and beads – vividly embody the 60’s counter culture of peace, love, rock and roll, drugs, sex, and freedom. Reality hits the group hard, though, when one of their leaders gets his draft notice for the Vietnam War. Over the course of the musical, the young man agonizes over what to do. Director Jacob Patorti says Americans are still struggling with the effects of unpopular wars – which is why he was so eager to stage Hair.
(Patorti) "I knew that I wanted to do a project that had something to do with the political state that we’re in today – but I didn’t want to say, here’s Jacob Patorti’s vision of the politics of today – so we as a board picked this show because it has such a strong opinion, but it’s based in 1968 so we’re not naming any names of today we’re not getting into anything like that. But it’s all very obvious if you will yet dealing with issues of 68."
(Keck) Technical director Hannah McMillen says they had fun turning the Paramount stage into a hippie campground and she’s eager to see how audiences react.
(McMillen) They’re going to be really, really surprised – because when you come into the paramount you expect to see this gorgeous, the velvet curtains – it’s all gone – we really wanted to break down that forth wall between the tribe and the audience and invite them in to participate in the show."
(Keck) Composer Galt MacDermot called Hair an American, tribal love rock musical. Jacob Patorti smiles and admits the music is definitely hard to categorize.
(Patorti) "It’s an odd mix of songs you do hear on the radio and then revamped to appear on the stage. And you just keep realizing oh, I know this one, I know this one. I know this one – they’re all very recognizable songs."
(Keck) Songs Patorti says still resonate. For VPR news, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.
(Host) Hair will be performed at Rutland’s Paramount Theatre through Saturday.