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Let the sunshine in—it’s ‘Hair’!

“Hair,” written by Gerome Ragni and James Rado with music by Galt MacDermot, debuted in 1967 as a groundbreaking piece of theater that used rock to convey that decade’s politics and social realities. —PHOTOS FROM REPERTORY PHILIPPINES

What perfect timing for Repertory Philippines to stage a production of “Hair” and make it a grand season-ender that runs Nov. 17-Dec. 17 at Onstage Theater in Greenbelt 1, Makati.

Broadway’s so-called “iconic tribal love-rock musical,” and Rep, one of the country’s pioneering English-language theater companies, turned 50 this year, with celebrations on both ends being not only about reaching the golden milestone but also commemorating their impact on generations of audiences.

Penned by Gerome Ragni and James Rado and with music by Galt MacDermot, “Hair” debuted in 1967 as a groundbreaking piece of theater that used rock to convey that decade’s politics and social realities.

Chris Millado, vice president and artistic director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines as well as recent appointee to the Cinema Evaluation Board of the Film Development Council of the Philippines, has been tapped to helm Rep’s final production for 2017.

Parallelisms

Five decades hence and still the musical remains relevant, with themes relatable to what has been transpiring even in our own backyard, Millado told Inquirer during the recent presentation of the theater group’s culminating show, as well as the 2018 season lineup.

“There are so many parallelisms about what’s happening, especially with the struggle of our young people today in the way they’re talking about truth and truth- seeking,” he said.

“There was a lot of fake news about the Vietnam War. There was a lot of manipulation… by government-controlled media to reshape the opinion especially of young people and the population of the United States about what’s really happening in Vietnam.”

What people saw on TV—the closest equivalent of social media in those days—was completely the opposite of reality, said Millado. It was the youth who, seeing real images of the war, caught the lies and pointed them out to the public, saying “no, you’re not giving us the truth.”

Among the actors portraying these rebellious youth are Markki Stroem alternating with Topper Fabregas as Claude, George Schulze as Berger and Caisa Borromeo as Sheila. The musical direction is by young pianist-composer Ejay Yatco.

George Schulze as Berger; Markki Stroem and Topper Fabregas alternating as Claude; Caisa Borromeo as Sheila. “There are so many parallelisms [between the Vietnam War era and now]… especially the struggle of our young people today in the way they’re talking about truth and truth-seeking,” says director Chris Millado.

Intense debate

“There were thousands of innocent people in Vietnam dying in the so-called war against communism and the intelligentsia—or the hippies—were the ones who brought it out to the streets… It was like the resurgence of youth power,” Millado said.

“To a certain degree I think it’s also happening now in our society. There is a very intense debate about what is truth, what isn’t, and how social media, even print [and other traditional platforms], influences what is perceived as true or not.”

“Hair” is the theater veteran’s second directorial gig for Rep (the first was “August: Osage County” in 2014), but it is Millado’s first time ever to take on an English-language musical. “Hair’s” continuing resonance is what primarily appealed to him.

“Even if it’s a musical that was crafted in the US or outside of the Philippines, I’ve always believed any work that I do should shape itself around our realities,” said Millado. “That’s one of my criteria… I make sure I connect with it (the material) and connect it with the social situation in the country.”

Producing musicals with social commentary (plus, in “Hair’s” case, risqué, irreverent scenes—the show is for adults only), is proof of Rep’s abiding commitment to exciting theater. As artistic director Joy Virata put it, “I’ll say our brand is about presenting a smorgasbord of theater for everyone to enjoy… We [at Rep] make you laugh. We make you cry. We make you think.”

2018 lineup

Next season’s smorgasbord offers two comedies, Ken Ludwig’s “Comedy of Tenors” (Jan. 26-Feb. 18) and Joseph Otto Kesselring’s “Arsenic and Old Lace” (April 6-29), a black comedy set in the 1930s; the period drama “Silent Sky” (March 2-25), Lauren Gunderson’s play about 19th-century Harvard Observatory astronomer Henrietta Leavitt; a classic fairy tale produced under Rep’s Theater for Young Audiences, “Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale” (Sept. 15, 2018-Jan. 27, 2019); and the return of Rep’s original historical musical, “Miong” (March 22-April 14, 2019).

Written by Virata to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Philippine Independence, “Miong” tells the story of General Emilio Aguinaldo from the time he was born up to the country’s liberation from Spain. It was first performed in 1998 for the centennial, with Rem Zamora playing the titular role, and will be staged in 2019 in time for the 150th birth anniversary of the revolutionary, military strategist and youngest president of the Philippines.

Repertory Philippines’ “Hair” runs Nov. 17-Dec. 17 at Onstage Theater, Greenbelt 1, Makati. Call 8433570/8919999 or visit www.ticketworld.com.ph.

For updates and show schedules, visit www.repertoryphilippines.ph, follow repertoryphilippines on Facebook and Instagram, and @repphils on Twitter.

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