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Hair captures the spirit of the ’60s

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Though the ’60s  finished a few years before I was born, the University of Lethbridge’s production of the 1968 rock musical Hair, which runs Feb. 9-13, captures the essence of a turbulent Danielle Guarr, Ian McFarlane and Kayleigh Book. Photo by Richard Amerydecade almost perfectly. It almost makes me wish I was born 20 years earlier to have experienced that first hand. At least I’d like to think.

I took in opening night, Feb. 9, which was close to sold out. While the Who’s epic ’60s anthem ‘My Generation’ played softly, several audience members could be seen dressed in their hippie best, even the pit band visible beneath  the stage sported love beads, fringes and long hair.


While the crowd was getting settled through a long, opening instrumental featuring atonal sitar music, the show’s main character, Manchester transplant Claude,  played expertly by Jerrim Rushka wandered onto the stage and sat on a tree stump, dwarfed by a massive dreamcatcher, where a couple hippie girls fondled his hair.


 He remained seated through the opening number “Age of Aquarius,” but he’d  steal the spotlight, though his Manchester accent kept  coming and going, as much as  ‘tribe’ leader  Georger Berger, played  by Ian McFarlane did. His innate charisma showed why the tribe look to him as a leader. The first act of the production introduced the audience to the tribe, explored their friendship and bonding over the common love of free love, drugs, peace and harmony.


 Though Hair takes place in 1968, there was a definite connection between the young people back then and the young people today, as they try to find their place in a tumultuous world fraught with parental and societal expectations, surrounded by the dark cloud of war, racial disharmony and the draft. It’s not a production for the politically correct. It has swearing, nudity,  sex, drugs, rock and roll and some intense exploration of controversial issues. But it is mostly about peace, love, friendship and understanding. And what’s wrong with that?


As the cast bond, they become as much friends of the audience as they do of each other.


Several of the cast were highlights including Ife Abiola who displayed his magnificent  set of pipes, and tribe member Lindsay Meli, who got to sing a few numbers, took part in the haunting, dimly lit, tastefully done nude scene ending  Act 1  while Claude  sings “What Am I To Do?” She also added some excellent comedic bits, especially during a scene exploring  the relationships between the parents and their offspring, during which she played  one of the mothers and also a scene in the trippy second act where she played a shoeshine girl for a black and female Abraham Lincoln. All the girls sing really well especially a trio doing a take off of the Supremes.

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Do you remember the ’60s? Get ready for Hair

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There is a saying if you can remember the ’60s, you weren’t really there. If so , the University of Lethbridge’s presentation of the  1967 rock musical ‘Hair’ which runs at the University Theatre, Feb. 9-13, will help you remember. So get ready for a bit of sex drugs, rock and roll, and yes, a little bit of nudity.Ian McFarlane (Berger) rehearses for Hair, Photo by Richard Amery
  Choreographer Lisa Doolittle proposed this project.
“I thought it would be interesting to gather a diversity of people. And Hair is the perfect production for that,” Doolittle said. Hair is a 1967 rock musical about  a group of young people in New York City’s East Village who come together and form “the Tribe” a group of flower children inspired by  the hippies of the Haight Ashbury District in San Francisco, who seek a new path, turn in drop out, take drugs, embrace their bodies and protest Vietnam and the establishment.

One of the main characters, Claude, who is having difficulty  completely embracing the new counter-culture refuses to burn his draft card, and ends up dying in Vietnam which has an effect on the rest of the Tribe.
“People who were young in the ’60s are the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates’ of today. It’s a very powerful production. It makes you wonder what is the point of war. But there’s lots of sex, drugs rock and roll too,” she said.


The massive cast and crew includes  community members and students from all areas of the university.
“The young people here are the same age as the young people in Hair. This is not a pastiche of the 60s.We asked these young people talk to  people who were young in the ’60s. These kids have really, really become these characters,” she said adding choreographing the dance moves was more of a matter of teaching the actors to feel and experience the music and let their bodies move to it.


“So much of the ’60s  was a celebration of the body and rejecting consumerism and rejecting the machine of war,” she said.


“It’s not  so much about  choreographing it , ... I’m not telling them 1,2,3,4, they’ve got to do it, feel it, experience it. I’ve just been organizing it so the audience can actually see what’s going on,” she continued praising director Gail Hanrahan for shaping the cast into a unique vision of the production.
Actor Ian McFarlane, who plays Tribe leader Berger is enjoying his role.

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Mousetrap keeps the audience guessing

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The Mousetrap keeps the audience guessing.Jeff Masson rehearses for  Sgt. Trotter. Photo By Richard Amery
 It’s been many years  since I saw a production of Agatha Christie’s mind bending 1952 whodunnit “The Mousetrap,” so I was especially eager to see what The Playgoers of Lethbridge would do with it, during their Feb. 3-6 run at the Yates Theatre.
Andrew Merrigan’s character of Christopher Wren (like the renown  architect who designed St. Paul’s Cathedral in London) summed up these characters perfectly in a succinct line in Act 1.
“I think they’re all interesting. Because you never know who they are or where they come from,” he states in his delightfully sinister yet innocent manner just as a menagerie of crazy and crazed characters come to stay at  the Ralston family’s Monkswell Manor guest house in the midst of a massive snowstorm where murder most foul is afoot.
Craig McCue, who plays Giles Ralston, captures the spirit of John Cleese’s finer moments in Fawlty Towers. His wife Mollie, played by Angela Gabert, is superb as a doting housewife, with a scary secret. I also enjoyed Christina Haska’s intense portrayal of Miss Casewell, which gets darker as the play moves along, she sits in a  chair making a noose during one of the darker moments, while Sgt. Trotter ( played by an equally intense Justin Masson) tries to figure out who murdered overbearing ex-barrister Mrs. Boyle, played by Nancy Bridal. Bridal does a great job portraying the constantly complaining fussbudget.
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Cast can’t wait for the Mousetrap

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The Playgoers of Lethbridge’s enthusiastic new cast are looking forward to the performing in Agatha Christie’s reknown murder-mystery/farce, the  Mousetrap, which runs Feb. 3-6 at the Yates Theatre.
“Some people are adrenaline junkies and jump off buildings, I don’t need to do that, I just get on stage,” enthused Andrew Merrigan, who looking forward to playing the Justin Masson (Sgt. Trotter) and Jeff Graham (Paravicini) rehearse for the Mousetrap. Photo by Richard Ameryflamboyant and scarf changing Christopher Wren in this 1952 production, which is about a group of eccentric characters trapped in a cabin by a snowstorm, when a murder occurs.
“I like the fact that he’s (Christopher Wren) really innocent and that I can play on that fact,” Merrigan continued adding he is enjoying his first outing on stage with Playgoers.
 The characters’ eccentricities have been enhanced in this production, for example Wren will be changing scarves every scene.
 “I think definitely the people. This is exactly what you look for when you volunteer for something like this,” Merrigan said of his favourite part of being part of the Mousetrap.
“It’s pretty together. There’s a great amount of energy so that makes it fun,” said Justin Masson, who plays Sgt. Trotter, who must solve the murder.

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