HAIR: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical

This is an update to a previous post:

The Chance Theater production of HAIR was nominated for six Ovation Awards (in our first eligible year) and six nominations from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle.

I’ve been working on lighting a production of HAIR at the Chance Theater in Anaheim Hills for the last few weeks. We open on Saturday July 10th, so it’s time to talk about our production.

I can remember my cousin playing the LP of HAIR in her bedroom non-stop whenever I’d visit. Apart from that, I’d never had any connection to the show. I was excited about lighting the show because I knew we could make it dynamic and colorful, which I love doing.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the weight of the show. Many productions concentrate on the peace and love vibe of the hippie tribe. They tend to revel in the “party” aspects of the show. Our director, Oanh Nguyen, was determined to forge deeper and find an emotionally grounded way to support the universal themes of the show.

Oanh was born in Vietnam and his personal story relates to the show. He has imbued the text (what little there is) with his perspective and it cements the show onto a more somber foundation.

Our choreographer, Kelly Todd, has choreographed a show not generally known for it’s choreography. Many productions rely on the cast to just “feel it”. Our production opens similarly, with the cast using their hands and bodies in a large unison statement about Aquarius. But then, at the top of Donna, the cast kicks into full rockstar dance mode, proudly stating to our audience that THIS is a different HAIR.

Chris Murillo, our scenic designer, has crafted a clever open warehouse, where our tribe congregates. There are platforms and steel catwalks which bring the cast out into the house, allowing our tribe to own the entire space. The brick and corrugated steel walls are covered in artfully produced graffiti and graphic images of the era.

Our costume designer, Erika Miller, has pulled together and created something unique for each tribe member, giving them their own personality. She has created a hippie world while steering clear of the stereotypical comic image of hippies.

Casey Holm, our sound designer, has worked with the director and the band to develop the sounds of the HAIR world; allowing us to spend a few hours in a different time and place.

Our projection designer, John MacDonald, has pulled together a beautiful collection of images and built them into a seamless vista.

Masako Tobaru, our tech director (and my right hand on this show), has welded, nailed, screwed, pounded, and bent more metal than she probably ever wanted to. She’s also coordinated audio, lighting, and projection for the show.

Our stage managers and support team (Courtny, Rosylynn, Thea, and Jeanne) have all driven themselves and the team to execute a tight show.

Our band has come together from disparate backgrounds to play a rockin’ score.

Last, but certainly not least, there is our cast, the Tribe. Taking direction from Oanh and movement from Kelly, this vibrant group of young performers translates this 40-year old script into something new and exciting.