Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Hump Day Hotties, Will Swenson in Hair

<-- This hippie to your left is Will Swenson, backstage at Hair here on Broadway. Not Hairspray, Hair. (They definitely don't believe in hairspray in this show. The locks must be free to fly about, the wilder the better.)

Swenson plays Berger (one of the musicals two leads) and the leader of the "tribe" of drugged up sexually uninhibited anti-war kids that the musical fawns over as they drop out in Central Park. The other lead is Berger's less wild best friend "Claude" played by freshly out Broadway regular Gavin Creel. He replaced Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening) who did the role in Central Park last summer. We assume he dumped Hair for his part in Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock? It's the musical's loss but who can blame him. You'd take a role in an Ang Lee film, too.

I apologize that I've been so weirdly name-droppy lately (I blame the recession ... it's fun, try it) but fact: I went to college with Will Swenson. We were both there the same time as Aaron Eckhart. I didn't really know either of them, only of them, but that hardly matters when name-dropping. My two best friends knew them (they ran with the actor/dancer crowd) I pretend like I did.

Will Swenson in Hair (2009) / Treat Williams as "Berger" in the movie (1979)

So there Swenson is in the altogether in HAIR (the famous 1st act closer still includes the whole cast getting naked). Our alma mater would most definitely not approve. In fact, Swenson's fans probably won't either. Will Swenson's film career has been almost entirely as a star actor/writer/director in the ultra specific and insular world of Mormon movies with films like Singles Ward and Sons of Provo on his resume. (That filmmaking wave won a brief bit of media attention outside of Utah in 2000 but quickly retreated back into its own bubble). But if his original fans disapprove of his latest performance, it's their loss. The Berger role is spiritually akin to the emcee role in Cabaret: he addresses the audience frequently, taunts them sexually and serves as guide into this strange world. Swenson doesn't pull any punches. His is the most sensual performance and he's got the best head of hair. He's completely "best in show". A TONY nomination better be forthcoming.

<-- the 1979 movie featured early career performances from Treat Williams, Beverly D'Angelo and John Savage. It was Milos Forman's follow up to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

I've always had trouble getting through Hair (1979) the movie. Have you seen it? I don't actually think much of the musical in general, on stage or film. It lacks as much direction as the characters it shines its sun on and I always have issues with musicals that only have 2 or 3 great songs. That said, this new production is great. The revival minimizes nearly all the musicals inherent flaws and maximizes everything that's resonant about its energy, sexuality and politics with exuberant setpieces, high energy performances, doses of reality and absolutely terrific staging which involves the audience more vigorously than any Broadway production has in recent memory. If you're visiting New York anytime soon, it's a totally rousing night of theater. This production: A

P.S. This production was so good, and its Vietnam era angst so resonant with contemporary shadings that I almost want someone to grab the film rights again. Surely more can be wrestled from it than what Milos Forman got? Here's the famous opening number "Aquarius" as interpreted in his film version and, just for fun, a number from a stage reading of another Broadway to Movies back to Broadway property, Camelot (Will Swenson is Sir Sagamore and singing with Marin Mazzie as Guinivere. He shows up at the 1:57 mark)



Antonio Cuesta said...

OMG I never liked hippies but... this one can be considered an exception!!!


adelutza said...

Wow, Nat, I'm impressed. "Hair" is one of my all time favorite movies, mainly for the music. Never got to see the play live though it's been my secret wish forever. I just didn't think it was ever going to be as good as the original - which I was too young to see.
But as I am going to be in New York soon I am going to go see that. I thought about "Exit The King" but now it's definitely going to Be "Hair".

RJ said...

I really did not like the movie. REALLY. Very aimless.

Kate said...

Nat, I couldn't agree more. Hated "Hair" the movie, but I loved, loved, LOVED this current Broadway version. Will Swenson is totally worthy of a Hump Day Hottie honor.

If it doesn't win the TONY for best revival, I'll be absolutely devastated.

Kelsy said...

I watched Hair when I was about 14 in some attempt to be ironic. I think I was mostly confused and weirded out.

And in terms of your name-dropping, I lived at the apartment complex that Singles Ward 2 was filmed at while it was being filmed. Although I never saw it. The first one was enough (and I'm glad Will Swenson is getting more work than Mormon culture movies)

Chris Na Taraja said...

I just served him at my restaurant. his friend introduced him as being in HAIR, and luckily I said that I heard all good things.

He's pretty sexy in real life too!

The movie has some good qualities, Nell Carter and Annie Golden, just to mention a few, but it is sadly missing the vibe of the 60's and fighting the war. It's too 70's. The show is better.

Andrew David said...

Haha I've never gotten through the movie, ever. Not that I've tried many times.

I saw it on stage a couple of years ago headlined by a bunch of Australian Idol semi-celebrities and Nikki Webster... no plot to speak of but generally pretty enjoyable. I really like a lot of the music which is the saving grace of the show.

Matt Sigl said...

I agree! Awesome production of a slightly overrated show (I'm glad 1776 won the Tony in '69.) I just wish I could have danced on stage during the curtain call and taken all my clothes off! Ok, maybe just dancing would have been enough.

par3182 said...

i freakin' love the movie of hair - it was the first movie i ever went back to see the very next day. of course, i was too young to understand the tripping scene but now i appreciate it even more (that sequence and 'black boys/white boys' are brilliantly witty). i like the way michael weller crafted a coherent screenplay from a shambolic source and twyla tharp's choreography is a perfect fit. and the ending gets me every time...

i could go on and on but i have to go watch my dvd again

adam k. said...

I own Hair the movie because my mom bought it for me when my college was putting on the show and I was auditioning. She was trying to be all supportive. Anyway, of course I blew the audition and didn't get cast, but I still have the film as a memento.

I'm not crazy about it - fairly mediocre - but still fun to watch in its way. It unfortunately has the the dubious distinction of being a much lesser work by a great director in between masterpieces. Oh well.

This is just the kind of material that was made to be experienced onstage... the production at school was pretty great, as I recall. I wasn't aware of this new revival, but now I REALLY wanna see it.

Paul Outlaw said...

Love, love, LOVE Hair the movie -- in fact, I've mentioned it twice on this blog in the past couple of weeks: Treat Williams' Berger is #8 of my Top 10 Movie Characters and "Black Boys/White Boys" is one of my favorite dance numbers.

The movie is a different animal than the play (which I wanna see when I come to NYC in June). I think Forman's genius shines through throughout.

Yancey said...

So "Hair" is winning the Best Revival Tony prize then?

Alex Constantin said...

just curious:
are they all naked at one point? :D

Rafael said...

Yeah! I watched on of the previews a month ago and was stunned how much more alive and resonant this stage production is then the 70's movie. Truly great, great, great and and most exciting show on broadway!

but as much as I like Will' wit and loved Groff on "Spring...", i have to say that for me the sweet and innocent Gavin is the best one in the show! He is the soul and connection, and a very charming man.
And yes, they are all naked on stage (except Gavin as the book goes...).

libhom said...

Will Swenson looks awesome, and I usually don't go for guys that much younger than me.


alex... very naked yes.

libholm... well Will isn't a baby or anything. They're all definitely much older than the ages of their characters ;) but that's Broadway. you don't have to be distracted by age when there are no closeups.

gabrieloak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gabrieloak said...

I was crazy about this new production of Hair. I felt like I was being lifted off my seat for most of the show. And I got to dance on stage at the end. Nice to feel high for two hours plus.

I haven't watched the movie lately but I'm a fan of John Savage so I like the film because of that.

Unka Dave said...

Wha? Not love the movie version?! I've loved it since I first saw it on The Movie Channel in '79 or '80. I was 9 or 10...and couldn't understand for a few years why my mom yelled at me for singing "Mastubation can be fun..." at the dinner table.
I dunno...maybe its because I saw it so early in life...but I think its a great flick.
Still have my copy of the album (with my 3rd grade autograph).
Just watched it again on Netflix 'watch now' a week or so ago.
Would die to see it live and on stage!


Unka Dave... don't die! I do think this current production will run for a good while (the crowd seems to love it) but I think it's best to see shows early when they have a sort of electricity of performance that's only rarely recaptured after the first year.

so if you're in new york, GO.

and yes i need to give the movie another shot.

Term Papers said...

The 1979 movie featured early career performances from Treat Williams, Beverly D'Angelo and John Savage. It was Milos Forman's follow up to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and these was include love,romance,comedy and sad story,that is why this film was famous.