Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Knee-jerk reaction: ‘Hair’ cast 2.0 announcement

The second Broadway revival cast of Hair was announced today, and the news has fans rolling in the mud—some in joy and others in frustration. The new lead actors announced include Kyle Riabko, Ace Young, and Diana DeGarmo; the latter two have appeared as finalists on American Idol. 

The casting of Young and DeGarmo was known as of February 7, when BroadwayGirlNYC announced the casting scoop. Since, fans have filled message boards and Twitter with concerns on stunt casting and whether it is good for a show’s sales or if it just cheapens its artistic value. 

Riabko will take over for Gavin Creel as Claude, Young for Will Swenson as Berger, and DeGarmo for Caissie Levy as Sheila. The rest of the casting can be seen at Broadway.com. 

Today’s cast announcement has seen reactions on Twitter, ranging from the disappointed… 

@jeffreychrist says if Diana DeGarmo & Ace Young join the cast of his beloved HAIR, it will not only have JUMPED the shark, but EATEN by the shark... 

@PataphysicalSci I'm disappointment with much of the new Hair cast, but on the bright side, it's a pretty good way to cure my Hair addiction. 

…to the elated… 

@CrysDenn So unbelievably excited about the new cast of Hair..I'm gonna have to see it again and i have to sit front row to get played with again! :) 

@BroadwayJack The new @HAIRTribe is awesome! Especially excited about @joshlamon as Margaret Mead and Annaleigh Ashford as Jeanie... :) 

Do I think the branding of American Idol with Young and DeGarmo will cause Hair’s ticket sales to surge? No. But stunt casting? DeGarmo has appeared in Hairspray on Broadway and The Toxic Avenger off. She has a substantial amount of professional musical theater experience now, and let’s not forget; she did come in second place during Idol’s third season. I hope that counts for something. 

Young has appeared in the recent Broadway revival of Grease, and although I haven’t seen him perform, I’ve heard he’s pretty charismatic. 

The casting of Riabko, however, gives me pause. The Canadian singer replaced Jonathan Groff as Melchior in Spring Awakening upon his departure, and then continued on in the role during the show’s national tour. Coming off of any original cast which you’ve loved is going to be a tainted experience. But I found Riabko to be quite wooden in the role of Melchior. A second viewing months later during the national tour didn’t reveal any progress. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles the free-loving role of Claude (which was also played by Groff when the show was in its Central Park run. Do we see a trend?). 

What do you think, rushers? Are you excited about the second generation of Hair tribe members, or are you resisting sleep, hoping that the original cast’s departure date on March 7 may never come? Leave it in the comments!


  1. I'm not excited about this personally...I think out of all of the shows on Broadway that did NOT need stunt casting to succeed, this was the one. For the producers to make this decision just seems very odd to me. It also makes me even less likely to want to see it at the Hirshfeld, being that there is NO WAY it could ever match seeing J. Groff in Central Park on a drizzly night!-Kym

  2. See, is it stunt casting? With every role that Diana DeGarmo is cast in for the rest of her career going to be seen as stunt casting? Maybe it will be. But I think at some point they'll have to drop the "American Idol" branding and maybe say, "Diana DeGarmo, of TOXIC AVENGER and HAIR fame!!" I am so with you on the nothing-beating-Central-park thing though. But yikes, do you know how many people would disagree with us?

  3. Both Diana and Ace auditioned for these roles. They wanted them and went for them like every other hardworking Broadway actor. That, to me, is not stunt casting. The casting directors didn't go looking for a "name" to bring in more tickets. Not to mention Diana's musical theatre resume, I think she's worked hard enough to get rid of the American Idol title.

  4. @Anonymous. Totally agree. She was quite young on American Idol—16, I believe. She's a young woman now and has been working this whole time. I don't think the connection to a reality show (especially one she didn't win) can hold out much longer. I think her stage experience will though.


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