By Andy Dillehay
Nebraska Repertory Theatre’s production of HAIR opened to a sold out crowd. Set in 1968, HAIR tells the story of a group of bohemian individuals living in New York City, grappling with the ongoing Vietnam War and fighting cultural norms and expectations. This groundbreaking musical is a product of its time, exploring themes of counterculture, sexual freedom, and political activism. The original Broadway production of HAIR opened 50 years ago, so it was quite fitting that Nebraska Rep included this show in its 50th anniversary season.
HAIR is an immersive theatrical experience. Placed in a thrust-style setting, the audience is fully enveloped in the action. Cast members utilized the aisles to make entrances, perform musical numbers, including the audience in all aspects of the production. Scenic designer Jill Hibbard created an industrial world, representative of New York City, complemented by the grass-like stage. Jamie Bullins’ free-flowing, fringey, and bell-bottomed costumes are a nice reflection of the 1960s. Adam R. Jezl-Sikorski’s lighting design was stellar, as was Kellen Voss’s sound design.
Director Andy Park has assembled a capable cast of actors. Aguel Lual started the production off with fervor with her rendition of “Aquarius”. Chris McNiff gives an honest and humble performance as Claude. Peej Mele’s Woof is a riot to watch. Jamari Johnson Williams is in a class of his own with his dynamic and expertly crafted portrayal of Hud. Other standout performances include Kellyn Danae Wooten, Karen Richards, Leon Evans, and Nadia Ra’shaun Williams.
Music director Vince Learned leads an outstanding band, filled with some of the finest talent in Lincoln. The music creates an ambiance that allows the cast to submerge themselves in the world of the 1960s. Susan Levine Ourada’s modern choreography embodies the spirit of the ‘60s. The cast executes the movement with confidence while remaining true to their characters.
HAIR is a snapshot of the era from which it came. While the material may feel dated, the themes of self-expression and standing up for your beliefs hold true to this day. Nebraska Rep does a fine job creating a world which throws the audience back in time.
*Please note, HAIR includes adult themes, strong language, and nudity. It is intended for mature audiences.
If you go: HAIR is being performed at the Johnny Carson Theatre on the west side of the Lied Center for Performing Arts. Remaining performances are March 30, April 2-6 at 7:30pm and March 31, April 6 and 7 at 2:00 pm. Tickets are currently sold out, but the Lied Center recommends arriving one hour before show times to get on the waitlist!
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