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November 19, 2009 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-11-19

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*I

4R - Thursdav November 19. 2009

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

HAIR
From Page 1B

in Iraq - and how these themes are
tied into the material.
"It's funny - when I first found
out I was going to be directing
'HAIR,' I got a lot of questions or
suggestions about where I should
set it," Wigfield explains.
"(People said) 'You should set it
in 2009 in Iraq and make the hip-
pies hipsters!' And I was like,'Well,
that'd be quite redundant,' because
I think as long as there's killing -
as long as there's a disturbance of
peace - the people are going to be
questioning that disturbance in
peace," Wigfield said.
"And it's very, very comforting
to know that, 43 years ago, people
were dealing with the same issues
- not necessarily the same situa-
tion, but the issues: choice, free-
dom, love, power, sex, religion."
The show's diversescoregave the
production team and musical direc-
tor Jake MClory, a Music, Theatre
& Dance senior, numerous options
with the direction the group could
take with the material. The songs in
the show are backed by a full band
and cover a variety of genres, from
traditional show tunes and country
songs to early Motown.
For "HAIR," McClory wanted
to maintain the best qualities of
the original score while simultane-
ously building something unique.
In crafting the score, McClory
adjusted vocal arrangements and
drew from both past productions
of "HAIR" and music from the '60s.,
"I've been lucky enough to work
with a cast that can jump from
genre to genre, a cast with such
unique voices that when they com-
bine and singtogether, it is incredi-
bly powerful and moving," McClory
wrote in an e-mail interview.
"I've loved having the experi-
ence to not only work on this show
but to familiarize myself with these
different genres - not many shows
use such a combination of styles."
With its progressive political
perspectives, "HAIR" has attract-
ed its share of both praise and,
most notably, controversy since
its debut. Besides its readiness to
flaunt numerous social and politi-
cal taboos, the show's first act ends
infamously with the cast disrobing
on stage. MUSKET's production
also includes a scene in which the
American flag is used in a variety of*
questionable situations.
This production of "HAIR"
makes full use of the group's flex-
ibility as a student-run organiza- -
tion, as well as the "14 and up" age
disclaimer placed at the bottomr of
the promotional poster. Wigfield
credited the cast for its willing-
ness to go with the show's riskier
aspects.
"It's incredibly encouraging to
find that the people you're work-
ing with are comfortable with what
you're doing," Wigfield explained.
"The audience might not always
be, but it's the chance you've got to
take."
Wigfield acknowledges that he
can't control how the audience
reacts to the show's controversial
moments, too.

"What I can control is how hon-
estly we support the text, what my
visual picture is when we look at a
scene and say, 'How can we bring
this to life?' " Wigfield said.
"And if that implies or if that
includes going to places that might
be a little shades of grey between
right and wrong, then that's a
chance you've got to take."
T he group started the produc-
tion process well in advance,
assembling the show's production
team in February. In the interven-
ing time, the team worked on vari-
ous pre-production tasks - they
choreographed dance numbers,
planned rehearsals and learned the
show's songs.
Once the team selected its cast,
the process picked up speed con-
siderably. The 19-member cast con-
tains a diverse spread of students,
ranging from freshmen performing
for the first time at the University
to upperclassmen with multiple
shows under their belts. The cast
members all share a love for the
form, and their appreciation of the
original show drew most of them to
the production.
"It's one of the few musicals
I've ever heard of that are not nar-
rative driven," said cast member
Brian Rosenthal, a Music, Theatre
& Dance junior. "It's not about the
plot ... it's just about these charac-
ters and their relationships."
Since being cast, the ensemble has
rehearsed four hours a day for six
days every week at the Student Arts
Theatre Complex. Their rehearsal
space isn't exactly the most luxuri-
ous place - the far walls of the room
are lined with mounds of props from
past shows and assorted shoes and
backpacks belonging to the cast.
There's ample space to run through
material, but the rehearsal is occa-
sionally punctuated by mechanical
whirring emanating from the vents
across the room.
The amount of content covered in
each rehearsal varies. Nights dedi-
cated to working on choreography
might only cover a few songs in sev-
eral hours, while sessions devoted
to rehearsing scenes or songs could
cover significantly more material.
The work doesn't stop after rehears-
als, either - cast members often
spend time outside rehearsal going
over lines, listening to songs and
practicing choreography at home.
"Every moment of the day you're
not learning lines, they're simmer-
ing in your brain and you're think-
ing about it." Rosenthal said.
For the cast, at least, the dynam-
ic nature of rehearsal helps to keep
the process fresh.
"It's been demanding, definitely,
and I think one of the fun things
aboutthis show is that it's constant-
ly changing," cast member Lance
Fletke, an LSA sophomore, said.
"We get the first senses of the
music and the blocking ... making
choices in our lines and how we
present the show. And we could
make a choice one night that really
conveys the point and the message
real well, but then the next night, it
doesn't do quite the job that it needs
to do," Fleke said. "So, you change
and you morph and it's not a rigid
production at all."
Simultaneously, the production

staff handles a variety of behind-
the-scenes tasks, ranging from
running production meetings to
advertising. For many members,
the process behind assembling the
show has its own appeal.
"We have weekly production
meetings where everybody gets
caught up on everything," said
associate producer Kathryn Pam-
ula, a first-time producer for MUS-
KET and a sophomore in the School
of Music, Theatre & Dance and the
Ross School of Business, "Individ-
ual units are doing lighting, sets,
sound, costumes and we regroup
at this meeting ... and it's just defi-
nitely a team process."
But what keeps MUSKET's
members going through their rig-
orous schedule? Being a full-time
student is enough for most at the
University, but balancing, at mini-
mum, another 24 hours of work
every week can't help but seem
grueling. For most of the cast and
crew, it's their passion for the cre-
ative process that draws them back
every day.
"It's something that we all enjoy
being a part of. I mean, otherwise,
we wouldn't be here at all," Massell
said. "Right now, the show is my
life . even though we get frustrat-
ed with each other and there's ups
and downs in the process of putting
on a show, above all, I think we all
love beinghere and we all love each
other and we're happy to pull our
weight."
t's the first full dress rehearsal
the week of opening night and
the Power Center, MUSKET's cen-
ter of production for this last week,
is a far cryfromctheirusual rehears-
al space.
The building's 1,368-seat the-
ater adds an enormous sense of
scale to the performance setting
with a multi-story steel scaffolding
adorned with a tie-dyed cloth ban-
ner and band instruments sitting at
the center of the stage. The mood
throughout the theater is especially
energetic,withcastand crew mem-
bers milling throughout the space,
trying out costumes and working
with the lighting and sound.
Sitting in the audience and look-
ing toward the stage at the cul-
mination of months of hard work
from the cast and crew, Wigfield
can't help but laugh and enjoy the
moment.
"It's everything: It's extremely
exciting, it's absolutely terrifying,
it's beautiful." Wigfield says. "To
see the haze, to see the band on
stage, ideas from the beginning,
(it's) incredible. It's like getting
everything you every wanted, it's
like Christmas and birthdays, but
better and for 1,200 people."
The process is still far from fin-
ished-Wigfield admits that things
will get fine tuned until rightbefore
the first show - and as he walks
back toward the stage, what that
entails is easy to see. The band's
sound needs to get calibrated, the
cast has to cut down their entrance
time and countless other adjust-
ments still have to be made.
But considering what the group
has already done since they started
working on "HAIR," it's hard to get
too worried. After all, they've got a
show to do.

*I

0I

S E STEPHEN STILLS'MANASSAS' (1972)
Stills's four-sided odyssey

By MIKE KUNTZ
Daily Arts Writer
Double albums are notori-
ously self-indulgent, even if they
sometimes yield startling results.
The four-sided format allows art-
ists to stretch out and explore
more experimental avenues in a
way single LPs don't, but there's
often enough fatty trash that one
wonders why a consistent "sin-
gle-album" wasn't culled from
the hit-or-miss creative process.
Though a lucky few may be exempt
from the stigma (The Beatles' self-
titled White Album; The Rolling
Stones' Exile on Main Street), pro-
ducing double albums nevertheless
seems intimidating.
Stephen Stills's 1972 double-
album, Manassas, can be fairly
billed as one of the more under-
rated records of the early'70s - an
era many consider the glory days
of rock'n'roll. Consisting of band
leaders and principal songwriters
Stills (Buffalo Springfield; Crosby,
Stills, Nash & Young) and Chris
Hillman (The Byrds, The Flying
Burrito Brothers), the band was a
ragtag collection of session musi-
cians who had played with either
Hillman or Stills over the course
of their careers. The seven musi-
cians' chemistry was so strong,
however, that they even adopted
Manassas as their band name after
touring began in order to distance
themselves from the notion that
they were merely Stills's backup
players.
Manassas is technically billed
as a Stephen Stills solo project,
though it's often tough, to see
where the group dynamic ends and
Stills's influence begins. With its

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eling, off-the-cuff instru- seamless the transition between
an, the record effectively blues and Latin-tinged rock can be.
a live-band feel: The "Both Of Us" is as perfect a collab-
blend of percussion, pedal oration between Stills and Hillman
iitars and keyboards cre- as one could ever hope for, with the
und rooted as much in tra- pair trading vocal leads until the
rock and country music as song erupts into a full-on Latinjam
:d bluegrass. Stills's child- showcasing the band at its finest.
igration between Florida,' The staunch country of "The
a, Costa Rica and Panama Wilderness" is full of Gram Par-
lyinfluenced his songwrit- sons-inspired songwriting and
ughout his career, but this arrangements (due in no small part
on toward diversity is par- to Hillman's presence), though
present here. the slower, more wistful songs of
ps in an attempt to focus Manassas's second side certainly
influence individually, the have an open-range beauty the
s comprised of four stylis- band can call its own. "Consider"
also has its moments, with the
raga-inspired jaunt of Byrds out-
rawing yet take "Bound to Fall" and the win-
ning Stills-Hillman collaboration
focused. "It Doesn't Matter."
The band stretches out on
the album's fourth side, and it's
different sides, complete there that Stills gets his Hendrix-
ir own titles: "The Raven" inspired ya-ya's out: "The Trea-
more Latin-tinged rock; sure" is over eight minutes of
ilderness" is pure country guitar jams and blues machismo,
egrass; "Consider" is safer and somehow succeeds at being
re folk-inspired; "Rock & epic without going over the top.
Here To Stay" is Stills's Bill Wyman (of The RollingStones)
blues-rock at its finest. As makes an appearance on "The
these sides are not as rig- Love Gangster," providing some
arated as one might expect, extra guitar wahs to the mix.
re is enough stylistic over- While this Stills project may
tain a cohesive session feel not match his previous work in
out. terms of star power, there is some-
ably the most engaging thing to be said for its collabora-
"The Raven," which starts tive charm and stylistic impurity
album with "Song of Love" that was clearly lacking from his
ominent Latin percussion better-known material. Though
iful keyboards. The "Rock drugs and demons would ulti-
Crazies/CubanBluegrass" mately doom the band down the
comes next, with its shift road, Manassas remains a stun-
oto-blues to afull-swinging. ning record that Stills contends is
r the course of three and a among the best of his career - and
nutes, showing just how it's hard to disagree.

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