MusicalFare Theatre's production of "Hair," which opens Thursday, will be one long "be-in" for the audience.
Director Chris Kelly said that with this production, the pioneering rock musical has been "reconceived" for the small space of the MusicalFare Theatre (4380 Main St., Amherst).
"Normally, besides the central characters, you might have a really large ensemble totaling 20 to 25 people. We're doing ours with just 15 people," said Kelly, who directed "Oliver!" for MusicalFare last season. "It's a much more intimate experience. The audience in this space is really going to feel like they're part of something like a be-in, whereas, if it was in a bigger space, there might be more emotional distance and remove from it."
In that case, audience members with memories of, or nostalgia for, the 1960s counterculture movement will feel right at home. But the cast members, who are mostly in their late teens or 20s, used a more contemporary approach to connect with this story of a hippie tribe banding together against the Vietnam War and the demands of a conservative society.
Kelly said that for the young cast -- including Anthony Alcocer, Cecelia Barron, Sarah Blewett and Patrick Cameron -- the ongoing Occupy protest movement that spread across the world last year served "as a window into" the issues in this musical. "It's interesting to see in Buffalo an actual protest ongoing and in your face every day, which is something we're not accustomed to in 2012," he said, referring to the Occupy Buffalo movement. "That was an interesting parallel."
While Kelly notes that the Occupy movement is "something visceral that the cast attached to and could relate to," the production isn't directly influenced by it.
MusicalFare will present "a pretty straightforward version of 'Hair' ," he said The only thing missing will be the nudity. "Hair" was controversial in its time for featuring on-stage nudity, which has since become a signature element of its productions. But at MusicalFare, the actors will keep their ripped jeans and tie-dye shirts on the whole time.
The nudity "is not necessary," Kelly said. "There are plenty of other sensually charged moments in the production that I don't think anyone's going to miss it."
WHEN: Opens at 7 p.m. Thursday through Aug. 11.
WHERE: MusicalFare Theatre, Daemen College, 4380 Main St., Amherst