Hair (review)

Hair (review)
Hair (review)
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THE PLAY: This is THE original rock musical, with wall-to-wall songs that hit all of the taboos: sex, religion, politics and, of course, drugs.


THE PRODUCTION: When a show is all about the music, especially the clever, outrageous lyrics, it’s a major disappointment when the voices are buried by an overbearing band in a muddled mix. That’s only the first frustration in this unfortunate production. The choreography is full of swaying and rolling around on the floor, often in unison, instead of any expressive individual style. The multiple-level set is wasted, because most of the action that takes place down center. (If you get tix, don’t sit in the lobby seats, because the show isn’t staged for you.) As for performances, the characters are full of stoned smiles, instead of genuine love. Matt Polson is an appealing presence, Nicklas Aliff carries the show’s energy and Carolyn Meade’s vocals are potent (Grey Garrett is an embarrassing vocal miscast). To add to the frustration, the lighting is often too dark and badly backlit. What’s the point of a nude scene if you can’t tell?


THE POINT: Despite the production’s energy, the largely lost lyrics are a major drawback in the enjoyment of this unfortunate production.


2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)


At Firehouse Theatre thru 7/19




  1. Mr. Williams, I sincerely hope you will have the good grace to explain further the reason for your opinion of Grey Garrett’s “embarrassing vocal casting”. That gives me and perhaps readers of your review absolutely no insight into what you found with it and what vocal casting would have been less embarrassing.
    To have called out a performer specifically in such a manner as you did in this review is, in this theatergoer’s opinion, irresponsibly lazy journalism.

    • I essentially made the comment about a director’s artistic choice. I’ve given Grey positive reviews in her last 2 shows (The Wild Party, Beyond the Rainbow), so I do take her seriously as an artist. As she explained to me in an exchange we had yesterday, she has a more traditional sounding voice and wanted to challenge herself to work on a new quality.
      While that’s admirable, I was embarrassed on 3 levels:
      1. For Grey to sound so bad, when she’s so talented
      2. For the show to have such a weak link in the midst of basically strong vocal work
      3. For Jase, who perhaps wanted to help her stretch but didn’t help her achieve that goal (after miscasting her in the first place)
      Finally, this is a musical and it would have been less embarrassing to have cast someone who could handle the music.

  2. Okay, you didn’t like the show. But to go after somebody like that, I don’t like reading it.

  3. Who are you, TVJerry, and what are your credentials as a theatre critic? Honest question: I don’t know. Thanks.

    • Go to the home page and click on “Who is TVJerry?” My credentials are there.

  4. As a patron and audience member who saw this show, I agree with most of what this reviewer has to say. Contrary to what the above comments have stated, Mr. Williams did not call out a performer or go after her in a manner any different than when he said another actresses vocals “were potent”. Actors in a show have no problems when they get named individually as long as it is an accolade, but if a comment that is not positive is given, then look out. In your review you stated several things that were well done, but the majority, like other reviewers have said, pointed up the flaws in a production caused by an ineffective director and technical elements that do not enhance the production, but detract from it. Much of the success of a show is in the casting, and it seems that in this case, at least one performer was terribly mis-cast. That does not equate to not being talented. It means someone else could have played the role better, and yes, even really great singers can be made to look bad if given a genre to sing that is not their strong suit. Points for wanting to stretch, but if it does not work, a reviewer will have something to say, be it here or in any other city. The people jumping all over Mr. Williams need to get a grip and stop whining. It is not the first production in this town that has gotten a bad review, and it won’t be the last. Whoever directed this show is the one who needs to step back and act like a grown up and allow for the fact that perhaps he did not do such a great job on this one, and he really did a disservice to all of the actors who worked so hard on the show. Castigating the reviewer for giving his opinion just points up what a small town mentality everyone really has. Go to Chicago or NY and see if such a thing would fly. I daresay the actors in those towns have thicker skins and a more pragmatic way of looking at the industry.

    • I agree with this comment – this town has a very “small town mentality.” Every show is supposed to get rave reviews, the sort of reviews only one’s mother would dole. This sort of mindless boosterism does not contribute to the development of a rich theatrical and cultural environment. Instead we get seasons of borderline high school-level productions punctuated by the occasional professional-level work. Richmond can, and has done, better.

      • I agree with this comment – this town has a very “small town mentality.” Every show is supposed to get rave reviews, the sort of reviews only one’s mother would dole. This sort of mindless boosterism does not contribute to the development of a rich theatrical and cultural environment. Instead we get seasons of borderline high school-level productions punctuated by the occasional professional-level work. Richmond can, and has done, better.

      • I agree with the comment concerning our “small town mentality.” Every show is supposed to get rave reviews, the sort of reviews only one’s mother would dole out. This sort of mindless boosterism does not contribute to the development of a rich theatrical and cultural environment. Instead we get seasons of borderline high school-level productions punctuated by the occasional professional-level work. Richmond can, and has done, better.

  5. uhm…the point of the nude scene….is not….for you… to oogle…the naked… actors??????

    • The point was…to demonstrate freedom of expression…however, u can’t tell they’re nude…the disrobe and final stance happens in almost complete darkness, so it kinda loses its impact

  6. I have known Jerry since college. He has as many credentials as anyone who dares gives an opinion. In general, the people who opine for the major communication outlets are a part of this close community and LOVE everything they see (as if they were parents of the production). I find it distressing that theater organizations retaliate against bad press. The very idea of Firehouse refusing to give him equal access because they don’t like his reviews! They’ll “let him in when they decide he can be fair”? Would you ever see such nonsense in a major city? It’s his OPINION. Sure, it effects the box office. That’s what opinions do. I can also cite to another local theater organization who had a critic fired from his job as a result of the review he had written. The newspaper ended up sending another critic who was assured to give a positive review. Infantile whining! Criticize Jerry’s writing style, his expertise, hell criticize the cut of his jib. It’s an OPINION. It’s not slander or libel. Richmond theater is far too soft on its community and, like some of the finer families in town, far too inbred for its own good. And that is just my opinion.

    • not speaking for jase here, but pretty sure they just meant that he wont be welcomed back with a free ticket on press night as a reviewer, because let’s be real, this paragraph is not a review. i think that he is still allowed to buy a ticket and write his little bit on his little website.

    • Agree completely with Fred. You nailed it. If local theater wants to sell more tickets, clean house and put on better productions. Everyone I know would rather drive to DC or wait for a touring show to come through, or drive down to the Mill and see extremely high quality on a super small stage. It’s not from lack of local talent; it’s from lack of rigor. I’m so glad to have come across this blog, which I only just discovered. Finally, some refreshing truths about the state of local theater.

  7. I was glad Jerry addressed the nude scene. The brevity and bad lighting of the scene was indicative of a production without a clear attitude toward its subject or perhaps just a general timidity. The scene is not about ogling naked actors. The links below describe how the scene can further highlight and reinforce the themes of the show.

    “Even their nudity, and how they flaunt it, in the first-act finale, further defines [the characters].”

    “The Tribe are taking off their clothes as a sign of rebellion against the oppression of society, as a demonstration of their freedom and their love and acceptance of their natural states.”

    “Donna Summer, who was in the German production, said that ‘it was not meant to be sexual in any way. We stood naked to comment on the fact that society makes more of nudity than killing.'”

  8. WARNING: Don’t read this if you are sensitive to critique:

    I’m sorry but I just don’t see how this review stepped over the line. I feel it’s time for most of the Richmond theatre community to wake up to a reality check, both actors and critics alike. It only takes looking at things objectively to see a few things that are really off. First, I find it very concerning that the only theatre awards in town are from the local critics themselves. Can someone tell me what other decent size regional theatre city that does/allows this?Most professional theatre awards have a nominating/voting committee made up of fellow artists, critics, patrons and the like. Of course its still political, but come on. I first mention this because it’s relevant as to why local actors might be extra sensitive to reviews and perhaps why there is so much professional inbreeding happening on both sides. I also think its important to mention that I have found when comments, such as this, have been hinted at or brought to attention in the past on other blogs and community forums, it seems to be ignored which is unfortunate because its significant.

    Switching gears, I have noticed a lot of gross miscasting that happens here in Richmond. It seems to happen fairly regularly and runs the gamut from this current production of Cabaret at RTP to Next to Normal at VA Rep. Personally, I think the focus needs to be less about hooking up friends and getting serious about shaking things up, hiring better directors and less pre-casting. I found Jerry’s HAIR comments to be very fair as compared to my own experience watching the show. I commend him for being one of the few critics in town that doesn’t RAVE and LOVE everything if their favorites are in the show. I also found Dave’s style review fair and no less critical. Why is only Jerry not allowed to return to Firehouse?

    Specifically, I find the whole Firehouse ordeal confusing to begin with. I’m confused, is Jase still the Artistic Director and didn’t he just move to the other side of the country? I find most of his musicals over the years without clear vision, concept and execution. He also appears to cast a lot of the same people in all of his shows and in fairness, is not to only director/theatre that does this in town. However, the point is, there clearly is less focus on casting appropriately and most effectively and much more focus on casting buddies. This is very disrespectful of the audience paying to see these shows. Firehouse has basically become an ensemble based theatre group. As a side note, the HAIR performance on the local news station was unacceptable and looked very under rehearsed and barely community theatre at best. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but come on, isn’t it sooo damn true? Would Signature Theatre in Arlington EVER put that on TV or stage?

    I feel the Richmond Theatre community has a responsibility to support each other but not always praise things that are not good, especially musicals in this town. This going to see your friends and saying how great it was when the show was mis-cast, pitchy, bad sound mix… or horrible quality tracked music, shows with the pacing way off, unclear character choices and/or iffy production values is only hurting the reputation of the community at whole.

    • Ed – Just curious, who do you feel was miscast in Cabaret?

    • Agreed (up until the specific comments concerning Jase’s direction, not having seen enough of his shows to proffer an opinion). Thanks for mentioning the tacky, tacky, tracked music – it is an utter disgrace that this has even crept into our local productions at all. How do you charge $60 for a ticket and use canned music? I can see a musical in NYC or DC with LIVE music for that price.

  9. Ed – Just curious, who do you feel was miscast in Cabaret?

  10. Any artistic director that would call out a reviewer and tell them not to come back until they have something nice to say is A) stupid, and B) Shooting themselves in the foot. A reviewer’s job isn’t to be nice or pleasant – it’s their job to give their point of view and opinion. If you don’t like it, produce better work – it’s really that simple. Or, grow a thicker skin, and hope for the best next time around.

  11. I saw the show and I also agree with Jerry assessment. More importantly, I want to support the comments that have defended criticism, even when it hurts. Critique is one of the most valuable tools in the art world. Both visual and performing arts academies thrive on it. Good directors and performers learn from it. For a theatre to say that a reviewer is unwelcome is like a restaurant saying, don’t come by if you’re going to review us on Yelp! Absurd in so many ways. And questioning credentials is a arrogant and elitist. Jerry’s are as good as anyone in this market, but that’s not the point. We are fortunate to live in a time when digital tools allow us all to share our opinions about movies, hotels, restaurants and more. The result is that those same organizations are forced to get better. That’s the value of critique and if the performers in Hair don’t understand that constructive feedback will make them stronger, they’ve chosen the wrong profession.

  12. I’ve read plenty of reviews in town, particularly in “Style Weekly” that did NOT love the show. I’ve been the subject of some of those reviews. When I’m a director and my show isn’t well-reviewed, I tell my cast, “We don’t take direction from reviewers,” and we keep on doing the show we prepared.

    But it’s worth mentioning “embarrassing” is an extremely loaded word, particularly in the context of a review whose brevity prevents any elaboration. “Embarrassing” isn’t just a synonym for “bad;” it insists that the actor and/or director should somehow be ashamed of what they’ve done. I haven’t seen the show, and don’t plan to, but I can’t think of many circumstances under which using the word “embarrassing” in a review is a good idea. I can completely understand it being seen as a personal attack rather than as just a descriptor of an artistic experience. Another word choice and we’re not having this conversation.

  13. I agree with Ed and Steve and Fred and Kelly. Jerry’s piece is a review, not a promotion. Without them, we’d be spending a lot of money on bad, local productions instead of the many good ones. “Embarrassing” is a good word because it implies an attempted, emotional connection with the performers and performance and tells the reader a lot, too. But quibbling over one word is hardly the point. Jerry’s job as a reviewer is to inform the reader, not placate or mollify the actors. I appreciate the advice.

  14. See and that’s why we never get out to go see shows anymore because you keep wanting to trust the opinion of one person. I’ve booked us another appointment with the marriage counselor…

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