40 Years of “Hair” Cast Alums at West Fest
One Big Hairy Family
There are a few musicals that participation in really welcomes you into a national family of cast alums…for life. Back when I did West Side Story at Broadway By the Bay, I remember getting excited about The Official WSS Website, which had a comprehensive register for all productions and performers internationally. Well, that only scratched the surface…
I just had the pleasure of experiencing my first real taste of this larger sense of community thanks to “West Fest”, the 40th Anniversary celebration of Woodstock, a free concert in Golden Gate Park. Today, for the closing act on the West Stage, 23 members from different national casts of Hair performed “The Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine In)”, and “We Are the World”. Enjoy more event details and posters here.
Since Berger doesn’t sing any of the solo verses in “The Flesh Failures” in the stage version, I was especially moved to be offered some of Claude’s passionate opening lines here. And, in “We Are the World”, was slightly amused to get the solos sung by the indisputable King (and a recent media Queen) of weed, Willie Nelson and Dionne Warwick! (I did not attempt a Willie impersonation.) Well, long-story-short, we ended up singing both pieces as group numbers, due to a producer’s misjudgment (a kind understatement!). But, that’s what hippie life is all about, after all…COMMUNITY! We clasped hands, stood arm-in-arm, and sang as one, from our hearts. The audience cheered us on, and fervently sang along, showing their shared love for Hair, and for the unifying message behind our second song.
Our new tribe came in from as far as New York, and as close as the Inner Richmond, SF (me). It included original cast members from NY, LA, Chicago, and Seattle. What an inspiration! Here are portraits of participants Walter Michael Harris, THE Walter from the Original Broadway production (at the tender age of 16!), and David “Pappy” Hunt, as Hud, from the same production.
And, here is Susan Morse (left) singing “Black Boys”, in Circus Magazine, ’69.
Hippie Life in Golden Gate Park
Never have I seen such a smorgasbord of homemade brownies, baklava, and other baked goods , all around Speedway Meadows. Jefferson Starship offered up a great set midday. Their current lead singer, Cathy Richardson has CRAZY chops! I was mighty impressed. (Initially, when I first rounded the corner and realized it was J.S. performing, I thought, Grace must have gotten some serious vocal rest!)
It was an honor to take part in this celebration of both Woodstock and Hair. Little did I know my own Berger costume would get more mileage so soon. And, I had a hell of a good time hangin’ with our lovely and insanely talented cast — at rehearsal, the event booth, backstage (in the performer kasbah tent), and onstage. We hung our tribe photos and exchanged stories at the booth. I look forward to our next gathering or gig. Special thanks must go to Pappy, Walter, Jenny, Barbara, Kevin, Rana, and Tadg!
The stars seemed to align yet again when Walter Harris shared that his brother George was Hibiscus, the founder of The Cockettes. I was especially thrilled to discover this, since I’m enamored with the Thrillpeddler’s current production of The Cockette’s “Pearls Over Shanghai”, which my friends Valentine and Leanne Borghesi are in (Leanne also served as Associate Director). George Harris “was also the young man in the turtleneck sweater in the famous picture of the anti-war protester putting flowers into the gun barrels of the MPs during the October 21, 1967 march on the Pentagon.” (Wikipedia) This act must have inspired the same gesture, by Claude, in the current Broadway production.
Let the sunshine in!
HAIR West Fest, 2009 Cast:
Walter Michael Harris (Music Director): Original Walter (“What a Piece of Work is Man”, Original Broadway Recording), Biltmore Theatre, NY, ‘68
Jenny Lee Ho (Choreographer): Crissy, Original SF, Geary & Orpheum Theatres, ‘69-‘70; National Dance Director, ‘70-‘71
David “Pappy” Hunt (Organizer): Hud, Original Broadway, ‘69; Original LA, ‘68
Tabitha Gaffney: Tribe (Koya Huye), Mountain Play, Mt. Tam, CA, ‘07
Tadg Galleran: “Don’t Put It Down”, Original Broadway; Original LA, ‘69-‘71
Janis Jobs: Jeanie, Miami, ‘70; Tribe, Seattle, ‘70
Rana Kangas-Kent (Hospitality): Jeanie (Koya Huye Tribe), Mountain Play, Mt. Tam, CA, ‘07
Jessica Marciel: Crissy (Jeanie understudy), Original LA, ‘69-‘71
Kevin Mason (Web Designer & Photographer): Woof, Margaret Mead, Walter, (Claude understudy), Original Seattle & Miami, ‘69, and Original Tour, ‘70; Over 500 performances!
Barbara Moore (Coordinator): NY Workshop (“Light Up Cross” Creator), ‘66; Original LA, ‘68-‘69
Susan Morse: Sheila (+“Electric Blues”), Original LA, ‘69; Tribe, Original Broadway, ‘69; “disinHAIRited” Cast Recording, ‘69
Alariza Nevarez: [Ozzy Osbourne, in "Zombies! The Musical", Exit Theater, SF, current]
Richard Osorio: General Manager, Original Broadway, ‘68; Original LA, ‘68; Las Vegas, ‘69; Tours
Helen Pollock: Crissy, Original Chicago, ‘69, and Original LA
John Quinn: Tribe (Koya Huye), Mountain Play, Mt. Tam, CA, ‘07
Cara Robin: Original Broadway Production Coordinator, and Second Casting Director, ‘68; Tribe, Original SF & Boston, ‘68-‘69; “disinHAIRited” Cast Recording, ‘69
Maggie Velasquez: “White Boys” (Muwekma Tribe), Stagelight Productions, San Jose, ‘07
Zia Wesley: Tribe, Original SF, ‘69; Original LA, ‘70 (stage name: Rhoda Seven)
Yvette Williams: Tribe, Original Chicago, ‘71; Crissy, Tour; Bus ‘n Truck, LA, ‘72-‘73
Michelle Wynn: Sheila (Muwekma Tribe), Stagelight Productions, San Jose, ‘07
Paul Ziller: Berger (Ramaytush Tribe), ACLO, Alameda, CA, ‘09
, Original SF, ‘69; Original LA, ‘70
(Cast, if you have any edits to this list, feel free to email me, or post in “Leave a Comment”!)