Coming to Bakersfield for one night only is a restored, but still censored, production of the landmark musical "Hair," meaning more original songs but no naked hippies.
Hailed as a triumph in experimental theater and revolutionary for its integrated cast, musical score and political content, "Hair" first opened on Broadway in 1967, just as American society began to realize there was a full-blown counter-culture at work in the nation.
Despite its anti-war, anti-establishment messages, use of profanity and explicit sexual content, "Hair," self-described as a "tribal love rock musical," was a runaway commercial smash, not only on Broadway, but in record stores and radio stations, with a half dozen of the show's songs --"Aquarius," "Let the Sun Shine In," "Good Morning, Starshine," "Hair," "Where Do I Go?" and "Easy to Be Hard"-- charting in the Top 10.
"Hair" was written by actors James Rado and Gerome Ragni, who originated the lead roles of Claude and Berger.
The show centers on Claude, the nominal leader of a group of hippies who refer to themselves as "The Tribe." Claude has been drafted, and he can't decide what to do.
Berger, his best friend and antagonist, along with The Tribe, try to persuade him to burn his draft card, and all of The Tribe take turns skewering middle-class institutions such as marriage and religion while extolling drug use, free love, racial tolerance and pacifism.
Erik Kopacsi stars as Claude in the touring production coming to Bakersfield.
Although only 24, this is the second time Kopacsi has performed the role, something he said gives him an enormous advantage.
"Being able to do it twice has given me the opportunity to explore (the role of Claude) in so much more depth," Kopacsi said.
Co-author Rado has reworked the show for the latest tour, restoring some of the songs from the original production that were cut during revivals and tours over the decades. Kopacsi said the restoration has added depth to the production.
"It's a lot more real, it goes back to its protesting roots; it's darker," Kopacsi said. "So if people are coming expecting the 2009 version, they're not going to see that."
Other changes include assigning additional duties to the actors who portray the members of The Tribe -- they are also The Band. Kopacsi said each of the performers plays an instrument, and the change, while also convenient for touring, helps the storytelling.
"The young people (of the 1960s) didn't have a lot of ways to get their point across," Kopacsi said. "One of the ways they did was through music."
One thing that will not be included in this production is the infamous nude scene.
In the original script, at the end of Act One, Claude wonders about his future while singing "Where Do I Go?"
The Tribe emerges at the end of the song naked, a gesture added by Rado and Ragni after they witnessed hippies in Central Park stripping as a means of protest.
Although the actual scene is only about 20 seconds, it has caused controversy among cast members and audiences alike around the world since the original Broadway production. Kapocsi confirmed the scene will not be performed.
"It really depends on the place we play," Kapocsi said. "If that's the agreement, we stick to it."
Despite its antagonism toward "establishment" values, Kapocsi said the real message of "Hair" is acceptance, tolerance and love.
"People are so much more shut off from their family and friends," Kapocsi said. "When you're open to being hurt, you're open to being loved."
Due to the use of profanity and explicit content, this show is recommended for mature audiences; parental discretion is advised.