‘Hair,’ the show that was more than a musical, fills KC Rep’s spring schedule

05/29/2014 1:57 PM

06/03/2014 2:23 PM

“Hair,” the classic countercultural rock musical that tapped into the 1960s sexual revolution, anti-war movement and communal peace-and-love tribalism, has been added to Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s 2014-15 season.

The 1967 musical by James Rado, Gerome Ragni and Galt MacDermot will run March 20 through April 12, 2015, at the Spencer Theatre.

Eric Rosen, the Rep’s artistic director, will stage the show. He said he planned an unorthodox approach — something between a concert version and a full production, with a cast of 12 and documentary interviews with artists who participated in the original New York production of “Hair” as well as others whose lives were affected by the show.

About half the cast will consist of young actors, Rosen said, while the others will be performers old enough to have contemporaneous memories of the show and its music.

“I find the challenge of it is that the cultural context that made the show so important is gone,” Rosen said. “After ‘That ’70s Show’ there’s just no way to do the ’60s in a way that doesn’t seem like a cartoon.

“The thing about ‘Hair’ in its original form was the people onstage looked like the people in the audience. But every time I’ve seen it, it feels sort of like a historical pageant: Weren’t the ’60s cool? Weren’t the ’60s wacky? ‘Hair’ is at the heart of contemporary musical theater and the heart of a political movement at the very time the Rep was founded.”

The Rep this year is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

“It’s not a concert,” he said. “It’s not a full production. But we are doing all the music and we’re re-imagining ‘Hair’ the way we re-imagined “Carousel” and “Cabaret” and “Into the Woods.” The question is, what we can add to it that would be meaningful to our audience?”

Anthony Edwards will be the musical director, and Rosen said he and Edwards were considering innovative arrangements for some of the songs.

“And in between the songs there will be documentary footage of what the original production was like,” he said. “There will be interviews with people involved in the original production.”

Another late addition

The Unicorn Theatre has also added a show to its season: John Logan’s “I’ll Eat You Last,” a one-actress show depicting legendary Hollywood agent Sue Mengers.

Bette Midler performed the piece on Broadway in 2012.

Logan’s script is a gossip-filled 90 minutes of Mengers dishing on Hollywood celebs who made up her client list, including Barbra Streisand, Burt Reynolds, Cher, Gene Hackman, Bob Fosse and many more.

The show, to be directed by Sidonie Garrett, will run Dec. 11-28.

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