Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hair Review

TCR - Theatre Cedar Rapids is putting on their spring production of Hair at a temporary location located at the parking lot Lindale Mall. Other theaters in the area could be so lucky as to claim this as a temporary location.

The opening of the show was electric, as the ensemble immediately took us back to the 60s with the song "Aquarius." The momentum carried us for a while until the lack of a storng plot becomes a little wearing. Fortunately, there are excellent performances all the way through.

Jim Kropa is very watchable as one of the main characters, George Berger. He spends much of the play shirtless and uses his lithe body language well to convey the looseness of the character. Kropa's stage presence is something that cannot be taught. He draws every eye in the theatre. Unfortunately, his voice isn't always quite up to the requirements of the role.

Tim Arnold shines as the musical's protagonist, Claude Hooper Bukowski. The plot, what there is of it, revolves around his indecision regarding the draft. It's never quite clear why he is so indecisive; is he worried he will go to prison? Does he just not want to go to Canada? His struggles would have had more resonance had we understood his motivations. I suppose it's possible that at the time the show was written, the audience would understand completely Claude's indecision. Modern audiences didn't live through the Vietnam War and do not have that frame of reference. That said, however, Arnold infuses every song with the proper emotions, and is a pleasure to watch and listen to, and the audience ends up very much caring what happens to him.

The women in this play aren't given much character development. Although many of them do have solos, they never quite cohere into a plot. That's the fault of the script, though, not the actresses, who were each delightful in their own way. Brooke Harlander as Crissy, a Kennedy High School senior, sounds wonderful when she plaintively sings about the boy she met in front of the Waverly; unfortunately she lost his address. Kelsey Madsen as Sheila does a moving rendition of "How Can People Be So Heartless?" She has a wonderful deep voice with a bit of an edge to it, and I would have liked to hear her sing more, and to know more about her character.

The costumes in this production were absolutely wonderful and spot-on. The girls were braless in shapeless long dresses, and the boys were embroidered, fringed, and shaggy. Most of the choreography was beautiful and seamless and aptly suited the music. However, A couple of instances of everyone moving in step during moments when individual activities would have made more sense stood out more because of that discrepancy.

I have to laud the band which accompanied this musical. When the show first began I actually got a little annoyed that TCR had used what was clearly recorded music, since it sounded so professional, and went off in my mind on a little mini-tangent about out-of-work local musicians. So I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that there was a band; they were just tucked off behind a wall on the other side of the makeshift auditorium.

The show ends as strongly as it began as Claude's decision and the consequences of that decision are made clear. The ending song involves the entire audience and more than one person was singing along. The electric energy that opened the show was back and the cast received a standing ovation. Despite the flaws of the script, this show is definitely worth seeing as the cast and the musicians infuse it with an energy that is contagious.

--Sharon Falduto and Matthew Falduto

Sharon Falduto has been involved with theatre for many years. Notable roles include Corrie in Barefoot in the Park with Dreamwell and Myra in Hay Fever with ICCT. She has directed God for the now defunct student group, West Side Players, and Of Mice and Men for Dreamwell. She is currently out of the theatre scene, as she is busy directing the lives of Rachel, Samantha, and Piper at her home in Coralville. She still enjoys the stage, however, and hopes to trod the boards again in the future.

Matthew has a Bachelor's degree in English from the University of Iowa. He has directed, acted in, and produced theater in the Iowa City area for over ten years. He has worked with the Iowa City Community Theatre, City Circle and Dreamwell, of which he is a founder. Two of his plays have been produced in the Iowa City area. In another brief life, he also worked as a technical writer.

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