Wild hair, nude hippies and a slew of angst-filled political and social movements only begin to create the provocative tone for the colorful rock musical “Hair.” Columbus theater company Standing Room Only will bring the musical to the city beginning this weekend, featuring a cast of young performers that includes Ohio State students.
Set against a backdrop of the Vietnam War, “Hair” captures the sentiment of a tribe of young hippies in New York City challenging government authority and protesting against their conservative society. The tribe, led by good friends Claude and Berger, steers its way through matters of racial tension, adolescent impulses and anxiety over the fateful draft.
Sean Felder, a fourth-year in integrated social studies, plays Claude in this production, and discussed the controversial issues, such as war, the original show brought up.
“The original show was openly protesting the (Vietnam) war while the war was going on, so there was such a polarized reaction to it because it was just so hard-hitting. Although we are not in the midst of draft, the broader themes still apply to any time and any place,” Felder said.
Felder said these broader themes include issues with government decisions, differing opinions, rebellion, identity and self-discovery.
“Claude is the most conflicted character in the show,” Felder said. “He is looked up to by all the members of the hippie tribe, but there is still a part of him that’s not fully committed to that persona.”
Claude’s character, Felder said, is torn between the happiness he feels with the tribe and following the path his parents want him to pursue in joining the war.
The show follows Claude’s journey, but also chronicles the personal issues his friends and family are dealing with as well, like relationships and dropping out of school.
Ricky Locci, a fourth-year in chemistry, plays Berger in “Hair” and shared his viewpoint on the provocative nature of the show.
“We’re not swearing because it’s funny, we’re not naked because it’s funny, but a lot of things we say are motivated to capture the generation and characters,” Locci said. “The fact is, the show and the content are all representing this generation correctly, and the actors are very motivated to do these things on stage.”
“Hair” debuted on Broadway in 1968 and has since been revived on Broadway a number of times, most recently in 2009. The original show itself was considered a bold statement of retaliation against the U.S. government for its involvement in the war, according to the musical’s website. It also pushed barriers of social norms with its expression of social justice and sexual freedom.
“It’s really important to respect the history and represent the generation of that time period, but also portray it in a way that relates to the generation of today,” Locci said. “There are groups of young adults still trying to find their way in the world and their views seem to clash with what society deems as politically correct.”
“It really helps you open your eyes to what is really going on in the world and with these people,” Felder said. “(‘Hair’) has been more than just a show — it’s a movement.”
Locci added to Felder’s point of “Hair” setting itself apart from others in technical aspects as well. He said the show is different than most because each character in the ensemble is given a personal name rather than a generic title in the production.
“Everyone has the chance to be highlighted. At the end of the day, it’s about this group of people and their relationships,” Locci said. “In a way, it makes it a very difficult show to do, but at the same time makes it even better. It’s kind of on everyone’s shoulders.”
“Hair” runs this weekend and next at Van Fleet Theatre at the Columbus Performing Arts Center located at 549 Franklin Ave. Tickets are $12 with a valid student ID, while adult tickets range from $18, and $21 for adults 55 and older. Friday and Saturday shows run at 8 p.m. with Sunday shows at 2 p.m.