But according to High Tech's long-time musical theater director Alex Perez, the school's latest production has proven to be the "most artistically different show we've come across."
The High Tech students will be putting on the famed 1960s rock musical, "Hair," for a five-show run beginning Wednesday afternoon, with a special preview show at 3 p.m.
Controversial on Broadway
In 1968, when "Hair" first opened, it was one of the most controversial productions to ever reach the Broadway stage, with its messages about anti-war, peace, freedom of expression, drugs and nudity.
Incredibly, 40 years later, some of those issues are still very much a part of the mainstream culture, like the Iraqi War instead of Vietnam and freedom of expression in music as much as hairstyles and dress.
"We're dealing now more with global warming and war," Perez said. "There's a lot of focus on that. We've modernized 'Hair' and brought it up to the 21st century, but a lot of what went on in the world 40 years ago is still going on today. So we just set the show to our place and time, instead of 1968, to make it make sense."
It's safe to say that the terms "groovy" and "far out" wouldn't exactly make it in today's lingo, even if your name is Greg Brady.
Perez said that he received the blessing from Michael Butler, the original producer of "Hair," and the composer/lyricist James Rado, with whom he has been in contact.
"They're happy that their show can grow some wings after all this time, especially now, with the young people of today," Perez said. "It's been great for us to work with them. The goal is to change the audience's minds on certain topics."
Of course, since the cast is comprised of high school students, the issues of nudity and drugs will not be discussed. But there are other issues, such as recycling, dietary concerns, gang activity, and other topics that will be part of the show.
The music from the show was very popular, like "Good Morning, Starshine," "Aquarius," and "Easy to be Hard."
Sophomore Ruby Hankey of Jersey City was familiar with the songs, so she was happy that they were doing "Hair."
"They are songs that a lot of people know," Hankey said. "I love the music and I know other people will as well."
However, fellow sophomore Jayson James of Bayonne wasn't aware of the show at first.
"When I heard we were doing it, I had to do research to find out what it was all about," James said. "Then, I found it and said, 'Oh, God.' It was weird. I didn't know whether we could pull it off. But when we got into it, everything clicked and now I'm all for it. This is like dealing with real life situations on stage. We had to change the show, modernize it for us. I love the music, but I especially loved the message."
Senior Samantha Perez of Weehawken has been in other High Tech productions, but this one has been the best.
"It's the most challenging and the most soul searching thing I've ever done," said Perez, who will take a unique double major at the University of Tampa in the fall, namely theater and marine science. "This really becomes a more enhanced version of yourself, because you're not portraying a character on stage. It's more rewarding, because you get to find the true essence of acting."
Perez is also excited about going to school in Florida.
"I guess there I can really let the sunshine in," she laughed, referring to one of the songs in the show, made popular recently by the movie, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."
Will perform some in Scotland
The musical theater program at High Tech is getting ready for its trip this summer to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. Some of the songs from "Hair" will be performed at the festival.
The students have been busy raising money for the trip. They needed to raise approximately $120,000 and received a major boost by performing in a fundraiser sponsored by Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise last week at the Brennan Courthouse.
The final show of the five presented this week will serve as perhaps the final fundraiser before they head across the pond. On Sunday, April 22, at 1 p.m., the final production of "Hair" will serve as the fundraiser for Scotland, with tickets on sale for $25, but theatergoers will receive a goody bag for attending.
Even though the students were on spring break last week, they were busy rehearsing, sometimes 14 hours a day.
The High Tech High School production of "Hair" will open Wednesday afternoon, April 18, with a special preview show at 3 p.m. It continues Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m., two shows Saturday at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., and the benefit show on Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets for all of the performances (except the Wednesday and Sunday shows) are $15. For more information, contact the High Tech musical theater department at (201) 854-2903. Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or email@example.com>