It was the show that Brian Clowdus, the openly gay artistic director of Serenbe Playhouse, credits for really putting his theater company on the national map. His 2013 version of “Hair” was a smashing success – and now the musical is back as part of the company’s 10th anniversary season.
The Tony Award-winning musical is known for his incredible score, with such recognizable songs as “Easy to be Hard,” “Let the Sunshine In” and the titular number. With the 50th anniversary of Woodstock this year, it seemed like a natural for a revival. “The 10th anniversary of Serenbe lined up with the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, so it felt like the universe was saying this was the time to revive it with an even more immersive, exciting cast,” says Clowdus. “I built the entire season around ‘Hair.’”
The musical was the first large scale one the company ever staged. “It was when we said, ‘Let’s do a cast of 20 and do it in an open space,’” Clowdus says. “It defined us as a theater that takes musicals and re-invents them, turning them on their head and making them exciting for everyone. We welcome people that don’t see anything else. You can wear your flip flops and hats to see a show here. That is what we have become known for. ‘Hair’ defined us as that, where the experience happens the minute you get out of your car.”
None of the 2013 cast members are back. The cast here is all new. “That was very important for me,” says Clowdus. “This cast brings fresh new energy. We have some New York talent as well as Atlanta talent.” Many of the cast members are gay, says Clowdus, including Zane Phillips, the actor playing Claude.” “RuPaul’s Drag Race” star Mimi Imfurst has also joined the cast.
Clowdus promises this version will feel like Woodstock. “It’s like you stepped back in time 50 years. You legitimately enter into a wildflower meadow and feel like you are completely transported. We use costumes from photos we found. The stage is a scaled down version of an actual Woodstock stage. We are using old vintage microphones and old theatrical lighting. It will have the same hippie atmosphere. It is going to feel like you are seeing a really cool concert at Woodstock – and you get to know the rock stars of this tribe. You’ll be entertained.”
He finds that the show is relevant for all audiences, including LGBT ones. “I think that ‘Hair’ as a show really hits home with artists and thinkers and lovers of all walks of life. It transcends theater audiences because that music – so many people who don’t know the musical know the song ‘Hair.’ I also think this is a perfect show for gay audiences to celebrate being free and that there is more fight to be done. It’s a very cathartic show not just for gay audiences but for anyone who feels liberated or even oppressed.”
Elsewhere, City Springs Theatre Company is closing a strong first season with the perennial favorite “Hairspray.” This version of the Tony Award-winner stars Greg London as Edna Turnblad, a role he has played on the national tour of the musical. Other cast members include Chase Peacock as Link Larkin, Deb Bowman as Velma Von Tussle and Marcie Millard as Prudy Pingleton. Based on the company’s track record, this should be worth seeing.