Yes, it’s topical; yes, it’s timely. Mitchell Butel can’t deny that starring in Hair in April 2003 is a little bit spooky. All those songs, [like] the hashish song, do make you go, fuck, we do kind of live in an insular, conservative age, Butel says.
Butel is one of that merry band of actors who are consistently working and yet not quite recognisable. Among his extensive engagements, Butel was in the Sydney Theatre Company productions of Dead White Males and Two Weeks With The Queen. He was at Belvoir Street in A View From The Bridge and The Laramie Project. He was on the small screen in Grass Roots and Bordertown and the big screen in Dark City and Two Hands. He’s even the voice of the Playschool theme song.
For the time being though, Butel is simply happy to be starring in a classic musical playing a great role and getting to sing a certain special song.
Woof’s the best. I still kind of think he’s the best character in the play. I mean, Berger is your Jesus figure, but Woof’s your Judas -¦ and Sodomy’s great, Butel says.
He means the song of course, which is right up there with My Conviction, in which he gets to play the drag queen Pauline. Butel tells me his lack of experience wearing heels is proving challenging, especially since the stage is an enormous raked peace sign.
I’d [also] love to play Viola in Twelfth Night. It would make so much sense, he tells me, adding, I hate Hamlet. When everyone says would you like to play Hamlet one day I always go -˜nuh’.
Butel is the only cast member from the ensemble originally assembled for a proposed arena spectacular staging that was eventually cancelled. The arena staging has now (thankfully) been abandoned, with this new production having already enjoyed a run in Melbourne before moving to Sydney’s Capitol Theatre.
This time around, the hippies include Kelley Abbey, Kane Alexander and Matt Hetherington, with dancin’ man David Atkins directing the love-in and infamous nude scene. Butel tells me that after baring all in the film Strange Fits Of Passion (or Strange Fists Of PassionÂ as my flatmate calls it, he says) stripping on stage is no drama. The biggest annoyance is how long he’s had to keep his waxen hair.
Butel grew his hair on a whim just before being cast in Man Of La Mancha, a show which saw his locks in pigtails for the role of The Barber. Then came the shoot for the upcoming film Getting Square, which saw Butel play a Greek ex-con lawyer, complete with long, black curly hair, designer beard and lots of jewellery.
I’ve had bad hair now for 18 months, he laughs.
The end of Hair might see the end of hair. He’s already signed up to star in the State Theatre and Playbox production of Night Letters, the stage adaptation of the novel by Robert Dessaix. Another cabaret show is also in development, which usually demands a respectable short, back and sides. And, fingers crossed, a return to the musical.
I’d love to do The Producers when it comes out here, Butel says. I mean, the gay characters are so extreme and clich? But it’s fun for me!
Hair flows at the Capitol Theatre from 8 April. Tickets range from $49 to $79 and may be booked through Ticketmaster7 on 1300 136 166 or at www.ticketmaster7.com. For more information visit www.hairthemusical.net.