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Theater

Review: Metropolis' 'Hair' explodes with raw energy, breakout performances

Credited as the first epic rock musical, “Hair” is a time capsule of the hippie generation’s philosophy of peace, love, harmony and understanding as they embrace freedom, love, sex and drugs.

Now playing at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights, “Hair” features book and lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado and music by Galt MacDermot. The Metropolis production, under the skilled direction of Resident Director Lauren Rawitz, is a slam dunk.

The premise is a simple guide from which song and dance bloom. While questioning authority and protesting the Vietnam War, one of the members of a tribe of hippies (Claude) is called into the draft, forcing the rest of the tribe to examine their values.

The production features a perfectly orchestrated ensemble. The performers in the tribe all are simply top notch. There is not a weak link in the bunch. Nor is there a bad seat in the beautiful Metropolis theater.

While the entire cast deserves kudos, there are a few standouts. Alex Levy, as Berger, is a ball of manic energy with a carefree delivery that makes you love him from the second he takes the stage. His hair alone is worth the price of admission.

Leah Davis, with a soulful voice and great comedic instincts, provides a stellar performance as Jeanie. As Woof, Steven Romero Schaeffer demonstrates a beautiful voice.

There is one performer, however, who will leave you in awe. Leon Evans, as Hud, has a charisma that reaches to every inch of the theater. A triple threat actor, singer and dancer, Evans has true star potential.

Rounding out the cast is Jonathan Stombres as Claude, Ninah Snipes as Dionne, Noah Spiegel-Blum as Margaret Mead, Abby Vombrack as Sheila, Brittany Wolf as Crissy and tribe members Joey Harbert, Brandy Miller, Mondisa Monde, Alex Newkirk, Mollyanne Nunn, Kenyai O’Neal, Aaron Mitchell Reese, Sara Reinecke, Colin Schreier, Aalon Smith and Ekia Thomas.

Choreographer Jen Cupani does an expert job making full use of the stage with dance and movement that compliment Kailey Rockwell’s music direction. Scenic design by Adam Liston gives the tribe a simple, but effective, monument to flower power to work from. Costume design by Cathy Tantillo aptly captures the bygone hippie era.

It should be noted there is suggested drug use, adult language and nudity, but they all add to the overall storyline. Doing a nude scene can be a humbling experience. The members of this tribe should be applauded for being brave enough to embrace the vision of playwrights Ragni and Rado by literally baring all.

Metropolis is becoming a consistent provider of quality entertainment in the northwest suburbs. “Hair” is a bonafide crowd pleaser and shouldn’t be missed.

• Rikki Lee Travolta has starred in, directed and choreographed productions throughout the country, including many in McHenry County. He has written two novels and a memoir. He now hosts a weekly musical theater radio program called “It’s Showtime with Rikki Lee” on 101.5 FM, or streaming and through podcasts on www.huntleyradio.com. His website is www.rikkileetravolta.com.

“HAIR”

WHEN: Through July 1

WHERE: Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights

COST & INFO: Trip to the era of hippie counter-culture and sexual revolution in the first ever epic rock musical. Contains adult content and explicit language. Tickets $38. Tickets and information: 847-577-2121 or www.metropolisarts.com.

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