The Moon’s in the seventh house, Jupiter’s aligning with Mars and once again it’s the Age of Aquarius. Rachel Rockwell’s exciting new production recalls the days of tie-dye, bell-bottoms, and military and Native American-inspired costumes (authentically recreated by Melissa Torchia). The show depicts a tribe of young long-haired, Manhattan hippies who, during the turbulent 1960’s, protest everything from the draft, unnecessary violence, the Vietnam War, environmental destruction, racism, bigotry, sexual repression and the illegality of mind-expanding drugs. This is the show that launched the birth of the rock musical, the concept play, audience participation, racial equality, onstage nudity and more hit songs than any other.
Rockwell’s poetic production dazzles but, largely due to the Paramount’s cavernous size, sometimes struggles to move the audience in the way a concept musical should. Moments that hit home include Bethany Thomas’ dynamic opening number, “Aquarius;” everything Dana Tretta (as the pregnant, young Jeannie) does on that stage, especially her sarcastic anthem to pollution, “The Air;” and Maggie Portman’s Crissy, who paints a beautifully touching story of young love in “Frank Mills.” As the two protagonists, Adrian Aguilar’s Berger and Skyler Adams’ Claude are outstanding. Both bring terrific, well-trained voices, boundless energy and charisma to their roles, as evidenced in numbers like the title song, “I Got Life” and “Where Do I Go.”
As a true ensemble show, praise must go to every member of Rockwell’s splendidly talented cast, in particular Donica Lynn, Molly Callinan, Alexis J. Rogers, Sean Effinger-Dean and Josh A. Dawson. Doug Peck’s brilliant musical direction, vocal arrangements and 11-member rock combo help create the period. And ultimately, Rockwell delivers the show’s anti-war message home in the most heartbreaking final moments of any production in memory, leaving audiences craving to “Let the Sunshine In.”