Review: ‘Hair’ and the call to freedom and expression

Julie Sisler

Before the performance even began, the stage was filled with actors lounging around in character, bright colors and vibes of “flower power.” 

WKU’s production of “Hair” kicked off with high energy, beginning with a chill-inducing rendition of “Aquarius,” one of the show’s most famous songs. 

The cast’s unity in both movement and sound pulled the viewer in until they were suddenly immersed in the world of the hippie movement of 1968.

“Hair,” a concept musical, debuted on Broadway 50 years ago. 

Senior Hunter Mayfield, who plays Berger, the sassy, de-facto leader of the tribe, said “Hair” is an important production for a number of reasons. 

“‘Hair’ was the first musical to successfully integrate rock music into it, and because of this, the music plays an integral part of our show,” Mayfield said. 

Mayfield said the show is relevant today, even though it was written about very specific events occurring 50 years ago. 

“Even though this show was written in 1968 about the themes and issues in America during that time, a lot, if not all, of the issues mentioned are still issues we are fighting for today, 50 years later,” Mayfield said. 

With its release, the show stirred controversy, as it still does, due to its rampant drug use and a scene depicting nudity.

“It’s about freedom,” stage manager Emma Cox said about the director and cast’s decision to include nudity in WKU’s performance. “Theatre is not meant to follow the rules. Art is here so we can talk about these issues that we normally wouldn’t. We’re talking about what freedom is to us, even if that’s taking off your bra or deciding not to take anything off.”

The show itself depicts a group of self-proclaimed hippies that call themselves a tribe. This tribe has taken over an abandoned church to create a space where they can be free to be themselves and work through their own issues.

“It’s a concept musical, meaning that there isn’t really a plot,” Mayfield said. “It’s mostly a compilation of scenes and songs that portray themes and ideas that all relate to each other.”

This lack of a defined plot creates new opportunities for the audience members to dive deeper into individu

al aspects of the show. 

Though the plot is not spelled out for the audience as it is in other shows, “Hair” brings to life a new sort of storyline, which allows the audience to focus less on the story and more on each individual song and the message it conveys. 

This also enables the audience to look more closely at each character, their struggles and their beautifully portrayed emotions. 

Mayfield said the production was different characters sharing their ideas and stories from their pasts. 

Through this style, audience members are introduced and intimately acquainted with tribe members, pulling them deeper into the musical itself. Through the tears, laughter and intensely powerful acting, each character on stage becomes more than just a character in a musical, but a person that audience members come to relate to and care for. 

Through all of this artistic sequencing and a lack of a standard plot line, the larger theme can be lost if one doesn’t look for it. 

Cox admitted that at first, it was hard to find the deeper meaning within the collection of seemingly assorted songs. 

“I’ve found that it’s so much deeper than one might think, and I’ve found that it’s about love, acceptance and searching for the truth in a world that’s hard to find that in,” Cox said. “It’s about trying to find the good in something that seems really bad.”

Mayfield said the musical relates to the world and how we interact with it. 

“We have fought and will continue to fight to make the world a place where we can feel free to be ourselves,” Mayfield said. 

This is beautifully exemplified in the cast’s breathtaking rendition of “The Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine In).” 

The cast members were visibly shaken as some members wiped tears from their eyes while others clung to their fellow castmates for physical support, all while singing a loud, powerful piece that left audience members with goosebumps on their arms and tears in their eyes. 

“Hair” will leave you touched and ready to go fight for whatever social movement you connect to and is showing November 13th and 15-18th in the Ivan Wilson Fine Arts Center. Tickets are available online or at the box office. 

Features reporter Julie Sisler can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow Julie on social media at @julie_sisler.