”I feel like it’s one of the greatest achievements of our career,” says Keegan Theatre’s Susan Rhea of the company’s current production of Hair. ”I feel more proud than I’ve ever felt of anything.”
Naturally, as co-director with her husband Mark Rhea, she feels a sense of motherly love and pride over Keegan’s incredibly stirring and youthful adaptation of the 46-year-old Broadway sensation.
”I realize that not everyone likes every kind of music,” continues Rhea, Keegan’s associate artistic director, ”but every single person in the leadership of Keegan is absolutely in love with the score of Hair.”
…the Rheas instructed the show’s young actors to think of the Andrew Keegan Theatre as the communal ground for the show’s ragtag group of hippies — the place where they eat, sleep, hang out, have sex and live as a pot-loving anti-war ”tribe,” a loose-knit kind of family.
And the sense of family that’s developed among the cast is why Rhea’s pride goes beyond the typical directorial delight in seeing a complicated show come to fruition.
”I just love and respect our cast so much,” says Ian Anthony Coleman, who plays the hyper-sexualized ”Colored Spade” Hud. ”Everyone’s so talented and so loving. It’s been a judgment-free space. It’s been very therapeutic and incredible to be around people that you can love and trust so quickly.”
Coleman, 23, is far from alone…”The cast has been absolutely fantastic. It’s definitely one of the friendliest, most open groups of people I’ve ever met,” says Ryan Patrick Welsh, who plays ”big ole homosexual” Steve and also serves as dance captain. ”We all kind of went out of our way to hang out a lot outside of the show, outside of rehearsals, so we could all kind of get familiar with each other and know each other so that we could bring those personal relationships on the stage.”
”As cliché as it sounds, we’ve become this big community and this big family. We’re all so comfortable with each other,” says Paul Scanlan, who plays the lead, Claude, struggling to weigh his opposition to war and love for tribe with duty to his country.
…The directors have also given them free range to flesh out their characters and their relationships, and hence the story.
”They’ve all been encouraged to find relationships with each other onstage physically and emotionally,” Susan says. ”If you want to touch someone or kiss them or physically be near them, it doesn’t matter who it is.” There are no boundaries, only free love.
… since the Church Street Theater became a home for Keegan in 2009, the company has more than doubled the number of productions it puts on, roughly eight a season. Per the company’s mission, roughly two are always Irish. These days the company sometimes even stages two musicals in a season — but always one big one.
But Keegan, which has launched a $4 million capital campaign to renovate and slightly expand its old brownstone venue, doesn’t stage just any musical. ”One of the reasons we love our venue so much,” she says, ”is that I think it reflects our personality as a company, which is strong and tough and kind of scrappy. A little edgier, and not this pristine, perfect place.” Generally that translates to staging gritty, lively, rock-oriented types of shows, from Rent to Spring Awakening to Hair.