Northeast Times

'Hair' makes Academy revival

Hair Tour

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Mar­shal Kennedy Car­o­lan wasn’t even a twinkle in any­one’s eye when Hair, the smash hit of 1968, opened on Broad­way.

But here he is now, at age 27, tak­ing the co-lead role of Claude in the show’s na­tion­al tour, on stage at the Academy of Mu­sic through Sunday.

“I wish I had been around to see the ori­gin­al, but just to be in it now is a dream come true,” said Car­o­lan, who was an un­der­study for the role and is play­ing it now while the ori­gin­al Claude takes a three-week leave. “And that leaves me ap­pear­ing in Phil­adelphia, some­where I’ve nev­er been but have been anxious to see.”

Hair: The Amer­ic­an Tri­bal Love-Rock Mu­sic­al is a product of the hip­pie coun­ter­cul­ture and sexu­al re­volu­tion of the 1960s. Sev­er­al of its songs be­came an­thems of the anti-Vi­et­nam War and peace move­ment. That in­cludes songs like Let the Sun Shine In, Aquar­i­us, Hair and Good Morn­ing Star­shine.

The mu­sic­al’s pro­fan­ity, its de­pic­tion of the use of il­leg­al drugs, its test­a­ment of sexu­al­ity, its ir­rev­er­ence for the Amer­ic­an flag, and its nude scene caused much com­ment and con­tro­versy when it first opened. But it also broke new ground in mu­sic­al theat­er by de­fin­ing the genre of “rock mu­sic­al,” us­ing a ra­cially in­teg­rated cast, and in­vit­ing the audi­ence on­stage for a “Be-In” fi­nale.

Ac­cord­ing to Car­o­lan, Hair fol­lows a group of hope­ful, free-spir­ited young people who ad­voc­ate a life­style of pa­ci­fism and free love in a so­ci­ety riddled with in­tol­er­ance and bru­tal­ity dur­ing the Vi­et­nam War.

“And here is Claude, a sweet-natured guy from Queens who’s about to be draf­ted. Even­tu­ally, he has to de­cide wheth­er to res­ist the draft as his friends have done, or give in to his par­ents’ ur­ging and serve in Vi­et­nam,” Car­o­lan said.

“The show’s ul­ti­mate mes­sage,” he con­tin­ued, “re­volves around this kid who has love for coun­try and fam­ily, and has a group of friends pulling off in dif­fer­ent dir­ec­tions. Are your par­ents wrong? Is your coun­try wrong? I feel as though every teen­ager has been in that situ­ation at some point in their life. Maybe he hasn’t been de­cid­ing wheth­er or not to go off to war, but there’s al­ways that mo­ment in life when you have to stand up and make a de­cision for your­self. And that’s the con­flict Claude has to face.”

Car­o­lan’s de­cision to quit sports and get in­volved in theat­er in his seni­or year in high school in Cali­for­nia may not have been as dra­mat­ic as Claude’s ul­ti­mate de­cision, but it took tak­ing a good, hard look at the way he de­cided his life should go.

“One day, a really good friend of mine heard me singing in the car and said I should try out for a mu­sic­al the school was put­ting on,” Car­o­lan ex­plained. “I de­cided to give it a try, and once I real­ized I really could sing, I de­cided to go for it. My sched­ule didn’t al­low me to do both, and so I de­cided mu­sic­al theat­er over­rode everything else.”

Ma­jor­ing in mu­sic­al theat­er at col­lege, after gradu­ation he was on his way to what he called, “the roller coast­er life of an act­or, with all its ups and downs, and ex­cite­ment in the middle. And, of course, I’d like to stay up as long as pos­sible.”

Since de­cid­ing on this ca­reer, Car­o­lan has ap­peared in The Who’s Tommy, Mama Mia!, High School Mu­sic­al, Cab­aret, Pip­pin and more.

Today, Hair is one of his fa­vor­ite shows.

“I think it is for a great many people as well,” he said. “The mu­sic is still around, but I think the storyline is also something audi­ences can re­late to. The show’s ul­ti­mate mes­sage is peace, equal­ity and free­dom, a mes­sage that will be with us forever — I hope.” ••

For times and tick­et in­form­a­tion, call 215-893-1999. 

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