Free love, drug experimentation, and draft dodging are all provocative topics, but it was wild locks that inspired the name of the very first rock musical, Hair
. Be it shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, or waxen, the show embraced beauty as a form of rebellion.
Now, more than forty years later, Hair
is back on Broadway. We snuck backstage during a rehearsal to find out just how they get their manes to look so good, despite two-and-a-half hours of dancing, singing, mooning, and sweating. In between sessions with a Bumble & bumble stylist, lead actors Will Swenson (who plays leader of the Central Park pack, Berger), Allison Case (hopeful Crissy), and Kacie Sheik (spacey Jeannie) let us in on their secret. Turns out, freeing your locks take more work than you think.What was it like working with Bumble & bumble?
Allison Case: It was actually really cool, because Bumble is this edgy, awesome place to go. Last summer we went in there and were like, “Hey, we’re from Hair!” We went for something really natural, just keeping with the vein of the show. You put in product, but then you shake it out. Just like, “Here I am, here’s my hair.”As a guy, was your hair experience any different?
Will Swenson: When I started rehearsals, my hair was down to my jaw and very thick. There was some concern because it was very heavy and I would sweat, and it would become kind of a dead rat on my head. So I went to Bumble and the stylist just took a lot of the weight out of it. They were all saying, “You need to give him a perm!” and I was fairly reluctant to do that—I was scared. But the stylist said, “Oh no, he’s got great hair, we just need to take some weight out of it.” So she did, and it magically made my hair lifted, and then the wave came out, and we didn’t have to perm it or anything. It was brilliant, it worked out perfectly.How did your hair help shape your character?
Kacie Sheik: It’s almost like each person that we’re being has a synonymous hair look and color and feel. I’m a kooky, crazy, metaphysical, aura cleansing spirit, so I have big, curly, bodacious hair. [Jeannie] is full of life and full of soul, so the hair kind of has an echo to that.
WS: As actors, we do this silly kind of exercise where we pick an animal to emulate body language, and the guy I play, Burger, is the leader of the tribe and certainly a lion. He has to have a mane, so I get pretty gigantic and fairly unkempt. There are lyrics in the show where I want long, curly, fuzzy, shaggy, ratty, matte-y, oily, greasy…you know, on and on. So I try to incorporate those things into the look of the hair, so it absolutely serves the character.What originally made you want to try out for the show?
AC: Well, I love Hair,
the music, everything. I did the show in college—I was in the tribe, but I always wanted to be Crissy. I moved to New York, and this was the first audition I went to!How does working on this show compare to other experiences?
KS: It’s pretty different, because the A to Z theatrical experience is usually wigs and pin curls, and that does lead to a lot of damage. It’s a luxury to have [Bumble & bumble], it definitely helps the health and just our exuberance in doing the show. If your hair looks good and you’re in Hair
, I mean, come on! Enough said.
REBECCA WILLA DAVIS
for more info, and check out the April issue of NYLON for more on Hair