‘Hair’ still lets the sunshine in

Although I have lived in San Francisco for more than 20 years, I recently made my first journey to a Mountain Play production. It’s an amazing setting, high atop glorious Mount Tamalpais, with unsurpassed views of The City and the Bay.

For 94 years, the Mountain Play has presented annual outdoor musicals in the historic 4,000-seat Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre in Mount Tamalpais State Park in Mill Valley. Going to a show there, though, is an experience that requires a bit of stamina, planning and time. Expect stone seat surfaces (cushions provided), general admission seating and some hiking, and you’ll enjoy a unique and atypical afternoon of musical theater.

This year’s show, 1967’s “Hair,” is an interesting choice in that Mountain Play productions are considered family fare. Particularly at the time of its debut, the show featured “adult” themes that were unconventional and controversial. Are they still applicable today?

When presented off-Broadway at Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival on Oct. 29, 1967 (and subsequently on Broadway starting in April 1968, running for 1,750 performances), “Hair” not only broke new ground, but shattered cultural and theatrical norms. With its peerless tribal-love-rock musical style, it changed the course of Broadway. Its distinctive music was written by Galt MacDermot and poetic lyrics (and a barely noticeable book) were written by Gerome Ragni and James Rado.

The lively Mountain Play production features a cast of more than 30 singers and dancers who undertake to re-create the 1960s with fringe vests, tie-dye clothing, free love and a “far out” marijuana-infused look at the world during a time of radical political and social change.

The Vietnam War, the draft, gay liberation and recreational drug use are fodder for creative staging and mostly solid rock numbers. The music is very good. Classic hits include “Aquarius,” “Good Morning Starshine,” “Let the Sunshine In,” “Frank Mills,” “Easy to Be Hard” and other gems, all played with spectacular verve and bravado by the onstage band under superb musical direction by Debra Chambliss.

Outstanding cast members are Susan Zelinsky as Shelia, Jeff Wiesen as Berger and Tyler McKenna as Claude. Costumes are adroitly designed by Patricia Polen, with choreography by Rick Wallace and direction by James Dunn.

Yes, “Hair” can beviewed as museum piece. It takes a look back to a time when America was waking up from a “Leave It to Beaver” portrait that had come to represent the nation. The assignations of 1960s leaders and the Vietnam War shattered those cross-stitched illusions forever. “Hair” made us take an unflinching look at our new emerging youth culture — barefoot, flowered and poised to battle and assail the armies of conformity headed our way. When will we ever learn?

Hair

Presented by Mountain Play

Where: Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre, Mount Tamalpais State Park, Mill Valley

When: 1 p.m. Sundays, plus June 9; closes June 17

Tickets: $25 to $35

Contact: (415) 383-1100

Note: Free shuttle buses run starting at 9:15 a.m. from various Mill Valley locations; visit www.MountainPlay.org for details


What is your favorite classic musical?

Share your comments below.

artsentertainmentOther Arts

Just Posted

On Sunday, California bore the brunt of what meteorologists referred to as a bomb cyclone and an atmospheric river, a convergence of storms that brought more than half a foot of rain to parts of the Bay Area, along with high winds, concerns about flash floods and the potential for heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada. Much of the Bay Area was under a flash flood watch on Sunday, with the National Weather Service warning of the potential for mudslides across the region. (NOAA via The New York Times)
Bomb cyclone, atmospheric river combine to pummel California with rain and wind

What you need to know about this historic weather event

National Weather Service flood watch in the San Francisco Bay Area for Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. (National Weather Service via Bay City News)
Storm updates: Sunday was wettest October day in San Francisco history

Torrential rainfall causes flooding, triggers evacuations in burn areas

Plan Bay Area 2050 is an expansive plan guiding the region’s growth and development over the next three decades. The regional plan addresses progressive policy priorities like a universal basic income and a region-wide rent cap, alongside massive new spending on affordable housing and transportation infrastructure. (Shutterstock)
$1.4 trillion ‘blueprint’ would address Bay Area’s housing, transit woes

Analyzing the big ticket proposals in ‘Plan Bay Area 2050’

A collaborative workspace for a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) in Coordinape is pictured at a recent blockchain meet up at Atlas Cafe. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Business without bosses: San Francisco innovators battle bureaucracy with blockchain

‘The next generation will work for three DAOs at the same time’

Most Read