‘Hair’ makes way to Pittsburgh

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Darius Nichols is glad to be reprising his role as Hud in the Broadway Revival of the American Tribal Love-Rock Musical “Hair.”

The production will play at Heinz Hall from Feb. 15-20. It is being presented by PNC Broadway Across America and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

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‘HAIR’ NATIONAL TOUR, THE COMPANY. (Photos by Joan Marcus)

“I had to create a story for him and bring a lot of humor to him because he is so angry,” explained Nichols who previously played the role on Broadway. He has been playing the role off and on for about three years. “Even though he’s outspoken, he’s been hurt so that’s why he speaks out. He challenges people to look at their racial views and people are not endeared to him at the beginning of the show.

“Hair” tells the story of a group of young Americans searching for peace and love during the Vietnam era.

“People are constantly searching for peace and love still, but other things are around like bullying. Kids are being bullied because they are different and bullies are doing it because they are searching for love,” he said.

Hair was the brainchild of James Rado and the late Gerome Ragni who wrote the book and lyrics. The pair was trying to interest Broadway producers in the show, but no one wanted to touch it.

The sound and essence of the show was foreign compared to anything that was on Broadway at the time: a tribe of hippies singing—sometimes profanely—about their dreams, fears, and concerns-not to mention sex and drugs—was not commonplace on the Great White Way.

Those are the reasons Rado and Ragni wanted to bring the concept to the stage.

“We wanted to reach the uptown crowd and shake things up. The subject matter was unlike anything that had been done on Broadway,” Rado said.

The original Broadway production of “Hair” played 1750 performances and ran for more than four years.

It won the 2009 Tony Award for Best Musical Revival and is currently playing on Broadway where it earned the Drama Desk, Drama League and Out Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding Musical.

The Revival of “Hair” is different from the original Broadway production, which was different from the off-Broadway production of the show at New York’s Public Theater.

“The idea was to write a show about hippies, about the peace/love movement,” Rado said. “The hippie movement was largely a White movement, but we wanted to have an integrated cast so we decided to bring in Black characters and address the Civil Rights aspects of the day. We found the theater of the streets so exciting that we wanted to bring it to the stage.”

Nichols, who hails from Virginia, feels that the musical resonates so much with audiences and critics alike because of the relevance of the musicals themes.

“There are a few parallels with the wars. It’s great that we’ve taken a huge leap with minority rights and women rights, but there are things that we still need to conquer,” he said.

(For ticket information call 412-392-4819 or visit http://www.pgharts.org.)

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