Review: Hair (The Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts)

With excellent choreography and staging, Randolph’s Hair offers its viewers a multimedia experience.

In the musical classic Hair, a group of young people take over an abandoned church while protesting the USA’s war with Vietnam in the 1960s. One “tribe” member, Claude, gets drafted. Hippies, flowers, drugs and, of course, hair dominate the show. The Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts is putting on Hair at their newly-named Randolph Theatre until August 4.

The music is great, and you are likely already familiar with a lot of it, even if you aren’t familiar with the musical. Notable examples include Aquarius and Good Morning Starshine. I’ve had The Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine In) running through my head since I left the theatre last night, which is a good sign.

Randolph Academy’s graduating class of 2012, which performs the play, is certainly a talented bunch. There were no bad or even mediocre performances. They were all excellent singers, dancers and actors… but even high-energy singers couldn’t turn Hair into a complete success.

My primary issue was summed up best by my boyfriend, who leaned over within the first five minutes and whispered “This isn’t the right venue for the show.” While the aesthetics of a restored church would, obviously, suit the setting of an abandoned church, the show’s acoustics are awful. Live music is loud (shocking, I know) and the performer’s microphones were turned up to propel their voices over the instrumentals. This still wasn’t enough, and we both struggled to make out the lyrics, particularly during solo performances. Far too loud, yet still not easily heard.

Despite sonic difficulties, the performers were still a lot of fun to watch, as the staging was excellent. The actors made good use of the space, constantly climbing down from balconies, running up and down the allies, and using trapdoors on the stage. The amount of effort and practice that went into the choreography was obvious after only a few minutes.

This incarnation of Hair featured live video projection, often to display writings and other things that were more easily made out by actually looking at the performer. While the idea is nice, the execution was lacking. It doesn’t take anything away from the show, however, as the camera action only mirrors what’s happening on the stage.

Overall, a few misgivings aside, Hair was a great experience. In a larger venue better suited to the vocal power of the actors, this production would bring down the house every night. Don’t miss your chance to see Hair, as it’s closing soon!


– Hair is playing at the Randolph Theatre (formerly the Bathurst Street Theatre, 736 Bathurst St.) at 8pm until August 4, 2012
– Tickets are $22 plus tax.
– Tickets are available from Ticketmaster™ (1-855-985-2787) and the Randolph Academy box office (for groups of 15+ 416-924-2243 x 266).

Photo by Raph Nogel