‘HAIR’ at 6th Street Playhouse – The Beginning

Gillian Eichenberger (Sheila), Ezra Hernandez (Berger), Jourdán Olivier-Verdé (Hud), and Jamin Jollo (Claude). Photo by Eric Chazankin

Many productions of HAIR have been mounted since 1968, but this production is the best this reviewer has seen.  The actors are rough, the stage is simple, the band is WOW and the play flows into the magic of Aquarius. Three generations in the house agreed that this play rocks.

Only the most fastidious viewer could be disappointed in this complete epic of our rock history.  Not a song missed making a statement of the age, when it was generally agreed that the rock was born under a star-blessed sky.  The newness and essential life of this musical reflects the time when sex was appreciated and gender was blurred.  Drugs were accepted in many places and the Viet Nam war was raging as a curse over the land.

Nicole Ward MacDonald (Linda) , Jourdán Olivier-Verdé (Hud), David Lee Hall (Paul), Serena Elize Flores (Dionne). Photo by Eric Chazankin.

Aja Gianola-Norris directs a wonderful collage of sights and song that fully fit the immensity of the times.  Nothing is spared the full treatment, as much as possible for the stage, and the interactions of the actors bring the songs to life.  Gianola-Norris turns up the shock factor in this production to high, not missing any of the opportunities.

Burger (played by Ezra Hernandez) takes the lead quickly with his rendition of “Donna.” Hernandez is the larger than life brute force leader of the “Tribe,” taking the cast and audience on a wild ride through the streets of New York City.

Claude (played by Jamin Jollo) becomes the conscience of the “Tribe” and the anti-war movement during the production.  Not knowing what to do with his draft card and A1 status evolves into a driving force in the play.  Jollo carries his indecision and pain visibly on his shoulders, giving the play its true focus in the second act. 

Theo Olson (Crissy), Alanna Weatherby (Jeanie), Gillian Eichenberger (Sheila). Photo by Eric Chazankin.

Shiela (played by Gillian Eichenberger) is indeed the darling of the “Tribe.” Her rendition of “I Believe in Love” was sparkling while her “Easy to be Hard” was sweet and sad. Eichenberger sings it all in her sweetheart role of the story, emotional and memorable.

Lucas Sherman is a well-known name in our theatre scene for good reason.  As the music director, Sherman brings out the best of his band on every number.  From Rock to Blues, the songs carry the actors without being overbearing.  The pit is behind the stage to complement the entire story; it is fascinating to watch Sherman’s focus and energy with his musicians while the story evolves. 

Ezra Hernandez – as Berger. Photo by Eric Chazankin.

The choreography of Rachel Wynne does not miss to tie the songs together in a flowing story with few breaks.  The dances come together smoothly to surprise us with the seemingly random movement of the story. The many costumes of Mae Heagerty Matos are beautiful and consistent with the action on stage.  These period costumes add to the timelessness of the story.

The set design by Sam Transleau is simple, while facilitating the constant motion in the play.  It is not the NY street scene of “West Side Story,” but it is a huge Zodiac that a 1960’s performance would be happy with.  We are immersed in the age of Aquarius through this elegant set design.

The 6th Street Playhouse has taken the leap back into a post-Covid world.  This large scale musical production comes on strong with hope for new life.  It’s brash and rough, honest and loud, forceful and sweet.  It’s exactly what our world needs to jump full force into 2022.

Jamin Jollo (Claude) and company. Photo by Eric Chazankin.

This was the last successful work for writers Gerome Ragni and James Rado.  it was a tough sell to move beyond this success.  Galt MacDrermot’s music spanned the rock and blues spectrum with shooting stars that we fondly remember even now as a new beginning. 

The 6th Street Playhouse cast and crew and house are fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Masks are required for all audience.

“HAIR” continues at 6th Street Playhouse at 52 W. 6th Street, Santa Rosa, through March 6, 2022.

For further information and reservations: https://6thstreetplayhouse.com/  

Rating: ****

“HAIR,” by Gerome Ragni & James Rado,  Music by Galt MacDermot, produced by 6th Street Playhouse.  Director: Aja Gianola-Norris, Music Director: Lucas Sherman, Choreographer: Rachel Wynne, Set Designer: Sam Transleau, Light Designer: Carrie Mullen, Sound Design: Ben Roots, Costume Designer: Mae Heagerly Matos, Stage Manager: Christine Vondralee.

Cast: Ezra Hernandez as Berger, Gillian Eichenberger as Sheila, Jamin Jollo as Claude, Serena Elize Flores as Dionne, Noah Sternhill as Wool/Margaret Mead, Alanna Weatherby as Jeanie, Jourdan Olivier-Verdi as Hud, Theo Olson as Crissy/Berger’s Understudy

Ensemble: David Lee Hall as Paul, Keene Hudson as Walter/Hud’s Understudy, Lindsay John as Emmeretta, Tyehimba Kokayi as Ronnie, Nicole Ward MacDonald as Linda, Peri Zoe Yildirim-Stanley as Susannah/Dance Captain, Lynnea Mackey as Marjorie, Anne Clark as Sheila’s Understudy

Band: Lucas Sherman on Keyboard/Conductor, Trevor Acebo on Reeds, Kelley Hunt on Trumpet, Marc Rudlin on Trombone, Abe Newman on Guitars, Skyler Stover on Bass, Grant Bramham on Drums


Author: Gary Gonser

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.