The rock musical “Hair” has been given an update, but it continues to live up to its free-spirited and provocative nature.
The raucous and sometimes controversial show comes to the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. May 10.
“Hair” tells the story of the “tribe,” a group of politically active, long‐haired hippies of the Age of Aquarius living a Bohemian life in New York City and fighting against being drafted into the Vietnam War.
As a member of the tribe, Erik Kopacsi’s Claude not only sings and acts throughout the show, but he also plays guitar as he comes into personal conflicts with serious consequences.
The 24-year-old Kopacsi explained his role of Claude in the show and how he relates to the music created decades before he was born. But he is no stranger to “Hair.”
“I actually did the show once before, so I was familiar with the overall tone, but I went back and listened to a lot of stuff from that era,” Kopacsi said.
Claude is a young guy who finds his way into this tribe of hippies, which may or may not guide him to figure out who he is.
Kopacsi said the show requires him to use all aspects of his training of singing, dancing and acting.
Kopacsi was born and reared in Brantford, Ontario, and now resides in Toronto.
He is a graduate of the Sheridan College Musical Theatre Performance Program. The college is located in Ontario.,
“I actually began my singing career as a classically trained opera singer,” he said. “This is my first time on tour, and I’m excited to be part of a troupe travelling across North America.”
Kopacsi has been in productions of “Rent” and “Godspell” and some Shakespeare productions.
“The role of Claude has become my favorite role,” he said.
Claude, the tribe’s leader, has been drafted and must decide whether he will resist the draft or serve in the army, as his parents want him to do.
To prepare for his role as Claude, Kopacsi did considerable research.
“My character is heavily influenced by the war in Vietnam, having been drafted,” Kopacsi said.
The production has been performed at various times since its premiere in 1967, but it has been updated by original co-creator Jim Rado for the 2014 tour.
The show has been on the road for four months, and the production follows the plot of the original off-Broadway show.
“We turned the show back to its provocative roots,” Kopacsi said.
The changes in the script are largely based on the original material.
“The songs are written to deliver a message or address a dilemma the characters are facing,” Kopacsi said. “There is a high state of emotion, and it’s a lot darker in depicting the protesting area than the original score.”
There are 16 cast members, all of whom play an instrument.
Kopacsi is one of six guitarists in the show.
Music features all the big hits, including the title song, “Hair,” which is performed in the first act. Other show stoppers are “Let the Sun Shine In,” “Age of Aquarius” and “Good Morning Starshine.”
“ ‘I Got Life’ is one of my favorites,” Kopacsi said. “At first, I was uptight about having a starring roll, but the more we toured, the more I learned that I would do better if I just learned to relax.”
When it first appeared, “Hair” shattered social stigmas by featuring an integrated cast, a nude scene and commenting on then-societal norms. However, there will be no nudity in the Johnstown show, he said.
Kopacsi said the costumes are not as glitzy as the original, and the set has an industrial warehouse feel that reinforces the story’s rawness.
But the message is the same in saying that the world can be changed peacefully through protests and song.
“Younger generations as well as baby boomers can associate with the musical’s message,” he said.
Where: Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, 450 Schoolhouse Road, Richland Township.
When: 7:30 p.m. May 10.
Tickets: Available from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays at the box office, by calling 269-7200 or (800) 846-2787 or visiting www.upjarts.org.
Cost: $35, $39, $45.
Tom Lavis covers Features for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter.com/Tom LavisTD.