Peace, love and ‘Hair’
June 22, 2010
The Egyptian Theatre purchased the rights to stage "Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical" two years ago. It was slated for production twice but canceled due to financial challenges, says theater manager Randy Barton.
Now that the theater has secured sponsorship and paid off a considerable chunk of its debt, it’s ready for the return of a full-scale professional production.
On June 25, two days before the final curtain call on the Broadway revival of "Hair," the classic American rock musical will open for a month-long run at the Egyptian.
According to director Jerry Rapier, the timing is kismet. The musical is being produced in only a handful of theaters across the country. "Park City is one of the few places you can experience ‘Hair’ this summer," he says.
The last professional production of "Hair" in Utah was presented by the Salt Lake Acting Company in 1972, Rapier says. With the modern parallels to war, equality and acceptance, the play takes on a whole new meaning.
The stage production will stay true to the original storyline and message of love, peace and freedom. Rapier doesn’t want to exaggerate parallels to modern-day issues, but he recognizes that audience members will interpret the tale through a contemporary lens.
Recommended Stories For You
"You do the show as it’s intended and let people decide how they see themselves in the story," he says. "It speaks very strongly to people of any age."
"Hair" tells the story of a tribe of hippies in New York’s Lower East Side in 1968. Through infectious songs and a particularly liberal context, the play explores the sexual revolution, ’60s counter-culture and the Vietnam War era.
The Egyptian Theatre cast includes two Equity actors and 10 non-Equity actors. None of the actors are from Summit County, but several have performed on stage at the theater in past productions.
"We have a phenomenal cast that I’m really excited to share with the community," Rapier says.
Although only one cast member was born before 1980, he notes that it hasn’t been difficult for the actors to find their 1960s stride.
"I’ve always been drawn to the attitude and the feeling of the time period," says Seth Barney, who plays Berger, one of the leaders of the tribe.
The show is Rapier’s first time directing "Hair," which he describes as "the mother of all rock musicals." "It’s always been on my list, but I didn’t think it would ever be an opportunity here in Utah," he says. "For me and for a lot of the cast, it’s been a dream to do this show."
Deena Marie Manzanares, who plays the lead female role, Sheila, says she has been waiting years to get the chance to live the hippie life on stage.
"It was really exciting when this came to be in Utah," she says. "I had always hoped that if it did get put on, it would be through the Egyptian Theatre Company."
"Hair" will be the eighth show Rapier has directed at the Egyptian Theatre in the past 12 years. He worked full-time at the theatre as a producer in the late 1990s and also acted in several productions. For the past decade, he has run Plan B Theatre Company in Salt Lake City.
He has seen a lot of upheaval and a lot of changes at the Egyptian, but says he thinks it’s headed in the right direction. "It feels like the same energy that drew me here in the first place. It’s nice to be part of the new life of the company and to have been part of several cycles of its life."
Rapier joins musical director Dave Evanoff and choreographer David Holmes on the "Hair" production staff.
"[Dave] is the guy who really makes rock musicals sound right," Rapier says.
The sound, after all, is an important if not the most important aspect of the show. The first and last thing audience members will see is a four-person band stationed in the middle of the stage.
Musically, "Hair" represents the end of an era, Rapier says. It marks the last time musical theatre spawned a series of pop hits, including "Aquarius," "Let the Sunshine" and "Easy to Be Hard."
"Everyone knows the songs, whether they realize they’re from ‘Hair’ or not," Barney says.
It’s important to note that the musical and film version are two different things, Rapier notes. While the music is the same, the film version is "Hollywood-ized." "It’s a totally different experience," he says.
Rapier is working from a revision of the musical script and straddling a few different versions. The combination will make for significant differences from any version audience members may have seen.
Still, all the defining moments will remain intact, including an infamous nude scene featuring all cast members. In an only-in-Utah twist,
two of the actors happen to be students at Brigham Young University. "There is no provision for that in the honor code," Rapier says.
Manzanares says the nude scene "is really not what it’s made out to be." If that’s the only thing people take away from the performance, they’ll definitely miss the mark, she says.
"I would hate for anyone to limit the show to sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll," Rapier says. "It’s all about not being labeled."
It’s also about not judging and accepting people as they are, Manzanares adds. "It’s such a hopeful show. We all want to get lost in that for a little while," she says.
The Egyptian Theatre is dedicating the production of "Hair" to JoAnn Krajeski and Rick Rogers, cofounders of Save Our Stage, the organization that spearheaded the renovation of the theatre in the late ’90s. Krajeski passed away unexpectedly in 2008 and Rogers is currently recovering from a stroke.
Show times are Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sunday nights at 6 p.m. through July 25. Tickets are $22 in advance or $25 at the door and may be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com or by calling the box office at 435-649-9371. Due to nudity in the performance, no one under 18 will be admitted without an adult or guardian present.