Social issues, music, drugs, nudity, sex keep ‘Hair’ current

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Padgett Productions/Black Box Theatre

Just give Padgett Productions a small performance space and a large musical production and watch theatre magic occur as big musicals in intimate spaces put the audience inside the musicals with immersion techniques.

Grab your love beads; find your tie-dyed T-shirts; locate those bell-bottoms jeans you stashed; find or make a new headband; remember your anti-war chants–it’s time to re-discover “Hair.” Get re-acquainted to the Hippie movement of free love, aint-war, and rampant drug usage. Attend a “Be-in” and prepare to burn your draft card or bra. Freedom awaits the bold.

What’s amazing, “Hair” debuted on Broadway in 1968 and ran for 1,750 performances. The controversial musical featured full frontal nudity at the end of Act I. Known as the first “tribal rock musical” the controversial theme of open drug usage, profanity, and a killer Rock musical score. Book by Gerome Ragni and James Rado; Lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado; Music

Padgett Productions/Black Box Theatre

by Galt MacDermot. “Hair” with story, music, and controversial themes continues its relevance today, just over 50 years later.

“Hair” shocked Broadway audience and later other cities when the original touring company toured the States. Protests, anger, outrage met greeted the musical on its debut and throughout its national tour. Yes, even Kansas City had protests when it played at what is knows as The Lyric Theatre at 11th and Wyandotte.

Padgett Productions brings an inclusive version of the formerly controversial musical to Kansas City. What was shocking, unique, and controversial now plays with no uproar and brings eager, happy audiences to see a musical that stands the test of time. On stage nudity and profanity fail to shock current audiences. The music is known, and the show takes on a party

Padgett Productions/Black Box Theatre

scene in a confined space. The approach of Padgett Productions makes the show an enjoyable evening’s entertainment.

The small and intimate space allows the focus to remain on the story. And, yes, there is a story with a beginning, middle and end. Other local productions never focused on the story, but this version does. The story involves one of the tribe, Claude who is classified 1=A by the Selective Service and must report for his induction physicaland begin the process of joining the military. The question of resist, flee, or comply demonstrates the ideas and attitudes of the 1960s and the Vietnam War.

After the success of “Mamma Mia!” just last year, Padgett Productions knew their concept works in the Kansas City market. “Hair” continues their streak of in the Black Box Theatre in the KCMO Bottoms, guaranteed to get the audience involved and grooving to the musical score.

Padgett Productions/Black Box Theatre

The show opens with Berger (Jeff Smith)Wolf (Travis Holt) and other members of the tribe welcoming audience members to the tribe. Love beads signify that patrons have been officially met and welcomed into the Hippie group. This approach in a small space generates interest before the opening stains of the opening song “Aquarius,” so beautifully sung by Kristen Altoro.

Director Nick Padgett selected a variety of actors to create the tribe. And, be aware that each and every actor possesses an incredible voice and could perform almost any song in the production. As for the acting, Jeff Smith delivers an energetic, over-the-top version of Berger, the leader of the pack of Hippies. Smith’s strong, outgoing performance allows Brandon Davis as Claude to be vulunerable as he questions his torment between duty and fear. The two provide a great balance for the show to ride.

Smith displays his vocal prowess on “Donna” and “Hair.” Some of the other standout songs/performances in the show are “Black Boys” by Kristen Alley and “White Boys” by Kristen Altoro.

Padgett Productions/Black Box Theatre

Elise Campagna sings the painfully honest “Easy to Be Hard.” “Frank Mills” receives a really yearning performance by Kameryn Behrend. Overall, the entire cast performed so well in the numbers that featured more than one actor.

The cast for Padgett Productions “Hair” is: Jeff Smith as Berger, Brandon Davis as Claude, Elise Campagna as Sheila, Kristen Altoro as Ronny, Kameryn Behrend as Chrissy, Jacque Davidson as Hud, Travis Holt as Woof, Zoe Lepper as Jeannie, Kristen Alley as Dionne, Steven Ansel as Tribe Member, Christoph Nevins as Tribe Member, Morgan Butler as Tribe Member, Christa James as Tribe Member, Maria Savoy as Tribe Member.

Padgett Productions/Black Box Theatre

Artistic and Production Staff for “Hair” is: Nick Padgett, Producer/Director/Choreographer; Tim Braselton, music director; Sonia Jacobson, Stage Manager; Tim Braselton, Vocal Director; Morgan Butler, Assistant Choreographer; Nick Padgett, Production Design; Micah Thompson, Lighting Design; Mark Johnson, Sound Design; Francie Kapono-Kuzila & Nick Padgett, Costumes & Hair; Philip Thies, Sound Board Operator; Kristen Altoro, Scenic Art; Jill Smith, Company Manager for Padgett Productions.

Conducting the “Hair” band is Tim Braselton. The band for “Hair” is: Keyboard…Tim Braselton; Drums….Nick Panda; Electric Guitar…Ben Byard; Bass…Mark Johnson.

“Hair” continues through Sept.22 at The Black Box Theatre and is suggested for mature audiences due to adult language, references to drug use, and nudity. For  tickets go to immersivekc.com

Tags: Padgett Productions, “Hair” review, Black Box Theatre, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment

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