top of page

Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Hippiness with Hair at Haddonfield Plays & Players

by April Johnson

Mother’s Day, May 12, 2024.  I traveled to the venue of Haddonfield Plays and Players to view the ground-breaking and controversial Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. In familiarity to the venue along with the production I knew I was in for a treat.  In receipt of my ticket, I realized there appeared to be a shrine filled with meditational tools. As I headed to the door, the open stage was full of scaffolding strategically draped with tapestries of paisley, tie-dye, and rich colors.  The floor was covered with area rugs, large and smaller.  A backdrop of a brick wall with a stained-glass window made me feel like I was in a psychedelic sanctuary.  I had a feeling that this was going to be an experience to remember.  

Book and lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, and music by Galt MacDermot, Hair follows a young group of hippies fighting the establishment, dodging the drafts, getting high, living and loving in New York City. It’s 1967: the Vietnam War raging and the Age of Aquarius is dawning. Claude, his best friend Berger, their roommate Sheila, and their Tribe of friends struggle to balance the demands of the harsh and violent world with their dream for a more beautiful and peaceful world. When Claude receives his draft notice, he must decide whether to join his friends in resisting the draft, or bow to the pressures of society and his conservative parents, thereby sacrificing his ideals and, possibly, his life. Hair was a sensation when it premiered in 1967, as it brought the counterculture movement into the theatre and the national spotlight. The issues the show brings up -- alienation, civil disobedience, youthful defiance -- continue to timelessly resonate today (StageAgent).  Its Broadway debut premiered on April 29, 1968 at the Biltmore Theater. This production garnered some of the world’s greatest hits such as “Aquarius”, “Let The Sunshine In”, “Good Morning Starshine”, and the title “Hair”.

I had the opportunity to speak with Al Fuchs, director of the HPP presentation and his passion rang through our conversation.  His note in the playbill came to life and he mentioned how the process for him was a serendipitous turn since he himself performed this production at Rowan University in the early 90s.  “Today, Hair is seen as a period piece, almost like a documentary of the 60s.  However, at its core, it reminds us how much or how little we have progressed in the past fifty years—and the importance to stand up, be heard and ‘to be free’.”  He remembers his “tribe”, in fact, two are in HPP’s production.  Fuchs took meticulous care in vision, direction and keeping the intended integrity of this tribal love-rock musical.  A few minor deviations were made, however, they seamlessly worked.  

CJ Kish brilliantly portrayed the rebel leader Berger.  His charm and approach to this character compelled you into wanting to join the tribe.  Claude, Berger’s closest friend and disciple of the tribe, was graciously performed by Bobby Walker.  Walker breathed authenticity and character growth into Claude; making it such a powerful and reflective coming of age journey from beginning to end. Sara Flail presented Sheila, the NYU student/political activist, with such passion and a hint of virtue that shines through.  Moe Copeland cleverly delivered Hud in a humorous yet casual manner.  Jeanie, the enceinte enchantress, was conveyed by Martha Marie Wasser with impeccable comedic timing. W.D. Fordy was a delight as the overtly amorous Woof.  Salimah Davis executed Dionne as a siren of protest with a resounding belt throughout the production.  Layne Cochran effortlessly accomplished the mystically starry-eyed role of the flower child Crissy. Nancy Dickinson showed her diversity commanding the stage as Mom and Margaret Mead, two different supporting characters of the same generation who questioned the hippie generation and their motives.  Mike Doheny gave a surefire performance as Dad, the stoically stern patriarch of Claude.  Rounding out the cast was the gifted ensemble: Jared Camacho as Walter, Olivia Frankenbach as Angela, Vicki Friday as Emmaretta, Stephen Jackson as Paul, Faith McCleery as Althea, Christian Milazzo as Gimme, and Mia Rae Sanchez as Suzannah.  Each member had a chance to shine in their roles individually and lent their melodious voices and formed a chorus of communal love and harmony. 

Music Direction was by Andre’ Vermeulen (piano/keys), accompanied by live pit musicians hidden in the stage right wing, Curt Mount (guitar), Mark Petti (bass), and James Ieraci (drums/percussion); gave us the authentic sound of the 60s. Jenn Colleluori preserved the times in choreography with fluid body movement.  Costume Designer Ryan PJ Mulholland painstakingly and perfectly clothed the cast according to their personalities.  The cast was appropriately coiffed by Wig Designer Lauren Patanovich.  Lighting Design was provided by Eric Baker while Nicole Plasket operated the light board.  Kris Clayton served as Set Constructor as well as Technical Director.  Amanda Frederick operated as Director’s Assistant, Stage Management was led by Natalie Jewell and Tara Romanelli supported as Asst. Stage Manager. Debbie Mitchell oversaw Properties, and Anna Rodefeld led as Audio Technician. Artistic Direction was by Chris Miller. 

Even though this production is considered a period piece, it is as relevant and reflective in this era. It has been, maybe even up to this very present time, perceived as confrontational, insubordinate, and inflammatory from the outside looking in; however, this, in my view, is a coming-of-age journey.  Challenging the spectrum of the dream that had been passed down by the forefathers and leaders of former times. An unveiling of truth.  A new path to rectitude.  Demanding their inalienable rights of life, love, liberty, and the pursuit of “hippieness” through sensuality and well-known chants of protest. I would have loved to see a little more righteous indignation, however, that could have veered away from the message. 

The welcoming set, the fabulous lighting and projections, the music, and the interactive tribe who broke the fourth wall often (and I loved that about this production) were all the necessary elements to the ceremony of a wonderful production; and I was a guest about to be baptized into the transcendental Age of Aquarius.

Please make it your part of your journey to see this production at least once in your life; namely now and with this presentation.  There is a content warning: haze, gunshot sounds, suggestive content and brief nudity.   

Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical is playing at Haddonfield Plays and Players from May 10-25, 2024.  Tickets are available at


Latest Posts
bottom of page