TheatreVCU lets hair down in lastest show

It was a long, hard journey fighting to get into “Hair,” but once I did I realized that it was definitely worth the trouble (despite the lack of nudity that one would expect from a production of “Hair”). This past weekend VCU’s theater department presented four sold-out performances of the 1960s musical. I am constantly impressed by the artistic talent of VCU students and the cast of “Hair” was no exception.

The actors were mingling and playfully harassing the audience well before I arrived. The relaxed atmosphere made the performance more enjoyable and helped the audience relate to the characters.

“Hair” centered around the trials of the Chickahominy Tribe, fronted by Berger (Chris Taylor) and Claude (Joshua Fargason). The free-spirited tribe is confronted by problems with love (Jeannie (Melanie Mitchell) loves Claude, who loves Sheila (Angel Trent), who loves Berger, who is being obstinate) and the more serious issue of war. While the rest of the male tribe members joyfully incinerate their draft cards, Claude can’t bring himself to do so and ends up being shipped to Vietnam.

The touchy issue of war was lightened by playful pokes at the easily offended. “Sodomy” is hilarious, with cast members singing about and putting themselves into different sexual positions.

“Colored Spade” was my favorite number of the play. Fronted by Hud (DarRon Dandridge), every African-American cast member came on stage to sing this sarcastic song filled with stereotypes and racial slurs. The way they danced with the most amusing goofy smiles on their faces was great. The more they dramatized the stereotypes the more idiotic the stereotypes seemed to be. I must note that Clifton Duncan did a particularly brilliant job in “Colored Spade.”

Two other great songs were “Black Boys” and “White Boys,” in which African-American women sang about how “pretty” white boys were and white women sang about their “sweet tooth” for black boys. The women danced and sang in Supremes-style outfits to the men that they were praising.

Melanie Mitchell and Chris Taylor were delightful to watch. Each had enough energy to light up the stage alone, along with humor and wit to spare. Taylor brought an edge to the play, providing the closest thing to nudity when he bared his boxers, while Mitchell made Jeanie extremely lovable and heartbreakingly clueless. Her face lit up when Claude told her to “buzz off,” and she giddily exclaimed that he loved her.

“Hair” is one more success under the theater department’s belt, but it was obvious that it took a great deal of dedication to make it turn out so well. Consider it one play that lives up to the hype.

Continuing its run this weekend, “Hair” will be performed April 17 through 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the W. E. Singleton Center for Performing Arts (922 Park Ave.). Get there early or make reservations with the box office at 828-6026.

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