Paris Remillard, Steel Burkhardt, and company in Hair
(© Joan Marcus)
Paris Remillard, Steel Burkhardt, and company in Hair
(© Joan Marcus)
Steel Burkhardt and Paris Remillard began as understudies in the Tony Award-winning revival of Hair, and have worked their way up to the lead roles of Berger and Claude in the show's national tour, which is now playing Broadway's St. James Theatre for a 10-week run. TheaterMania spoke with Burkhardt and Remillard about their experiences with the show.

THEATERMANIA: This production has played a lot of places over the past few years. Are you still amazed by some of the audience reactions?
STEEL BURKHARDT: In a couple of cities, people stay the first act, see us get naked, and when we come back for Act II, we see empty seats. Little do they know, Act II is a lot more subdued. They already saw the worst part. But it depends on the city. Schenectady turned out to be a really great city. They had a great farmers' market, and, by the end, they were giving us a 10 percent discount. Hershey didn't get this show. A lot of people got up and walked out, and the people who stayed were very quiet.

TM: This tribe has traveled the country together. What kind of connection does the cast have?
SB: People who have seen us on tour, from the beginning in New Haven and DC, and then they catch the show again in another city, say they can tell we have grown closer as a tribe.

TM: Are you comfortable with the nude scene after doing this show for so long?
PARIS REMILLARD: I remember when we did the show in Central Park. We were told to run off stage and cover a certain body part with our clothes. I ran off the stage and we had to go through the audience. I took my clothes and covered my chest, which wasn't what I should have covered.
SB: It's extremely easy for me. I've been known to stay on stage after the others run off.

TM: There is a lot of audience involvement in this musical. What are some of your most memorable interactions?
SB: I've had people who have reached up under my loincloth. I remember this woman at the Central Park show who stripped down -- her summer dress came right off. She was very attractive as well, which was great.
PR: Men who have toupees usually give me this look like "don't touch my hair." Most people, though, are very happy to have us there.

TM: How do you keep your roles fresh?
SB: Diane Paulus, our director really let us make these roles our own.
PR: Steel and I are such great friends off stage, that it's like the two of us playing on stage for two and a half hours.

TM: This show seems to be a life-changing experience. What have you learned as a result of being part of Hair?
SB: Peace, love and understanding! Besides learning a lot about the business and maintaining my physique, you are bringing yourself to this show and you are learning a lot about yourself. It's similar to when you first started college and when you graduate. You are a different person.
PR: Even people who do small, regional productions of Hair say it has changed them. It has a lot to do with the tribe. You go through so much together, as a unit. You cannot be a loner. The group experience has changed me.