Denise Crosby: Here’s the skin-ny one more time: ‘Hair’ contains nudity
By Denise Crosby firstname.lastname@example.org March 22, 2012 3:10PM
Members of the Tribe kneel in prayer as they perform a musical number during a preview of the Broadway hit "Hair," which runs through April 1 at the Paramount Theater. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 24, 2012 8:09AM
The last curtain had BAREly fallen before the feedback began pouring in.
According to Paramount Theatre Executive Director Tim Rater, just hours after the opening show for the rock musical “Hair” concluded at the downtown Aurora theater, the emails began arriving. And the phone calls, Facebook posts and verbal comments have continued ever since.
A few disgruntled patrons called the play — and the Paramount — “un-American,” “anti-Catholic,” “vulgar,” “smutty” and “grotesque,” Rater said. Some declared this show has no place in Aurora or at the Paramount. There were even a few who left at intermission and did not return.
Rater is, of course, referring to the fact that the hit musical — true to its Broadway roots — contains a certain amount of vulgar language, and in case you’ve not been PAYING ATTENTION, 20 seconds of nudity.
If you want the truth — naked or not — the show’s producers have gone out of their way to warn us there would, at one point, be actors standing on stage in the buff. Big and little signs were posted throughout the theater. Automated emails went out, and brochures contained the information. And there have been plenty of stories in The Beacon-News and other media pointing to the fact the show may not be suitable for children.
“To the point of being a bit overkill,” Rater told me later.
Speaking of overkill: Before writing this column, I made a list of synonyms for the word naked — with the intent of cleverly using as many as I could to take advantage of the edgy topic.
I decided to — so sorry — strip down my attempt, simply because I wasn’t that clever. And I didn’t want all the great-aunt Gertrudes in town coming after me with their knitting needles.
After all, when you choose something controversial, you know there’s going to be push-back. And the Paramount folks took that into consideration when deciding to include “Hair” in their inaugural — and highly successful — Broadway series.
They realized from the get-go this raw and provocative musical was not going to be, as one polite patron put it, everyone’s “cup of tea.” But Rater and crew wanted diversity. They wanted something fresh (this is the first production of “Hair” in the Chicago area, as the rights to the musical had just been released). And they wanted a season-ender we’d not soon forget.
They got it. But for every negative comment, Rater said, they’ve received 12 that were positive. And he offers this email as “more indicative of the overwhelming feedback” coming in: “I wasn’t prepared for the powerful and visceral reaction of being thrust back to 1968 ... . And, although I cried at the beginning and the end, I smiled all the way through the rest of the marvelous show.”
Rater calls the production so powerful “you get lost to it.” In fact, the 37-year-old theater man is so high on the show — which is also getting rave reviews from professional critics — he considered allowing his 8-year-old to see it. The adult subject matter would go over her head, he told me. And as far as all that naked stuff goes, “it would take away some of the mystery.” In the end, Rater decided against taking his daughter because he didn’t want others in the audience to feel uncomfortable with a child around.
Speaking of: In in addition to bare bods and bad words, “Hair” disses parents, the American flag and even takes shots at my beloved Catholic nuns. But, just in case you’ve not been PAYING ATTENTION — say, for the past 44 years — the musical is an anti-establishment celebration that takes on just about everyone over the age of 30 and all they hold dear.
So consider yourself warned — again. If you see the Paramount musical (it’s running through April 1), be prepared to turn up your hearing aid and let down your hair.
And for everyone’s sake, leave Aunt Gertrude at home.