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February 16, 2010

Knee-jerk reaction: ‘Hair’ cast 2.0 announcement

by Jesse North
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 
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!

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