Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Steel Burkhardt....Berger in Touring Company of HAIR

The Steelman of HAIR, a BW product!

He has a superman inked logo on his arm with flashes of fire shooting out around it. He devotes huge amounts of energy working out at the gym. He spends a lot of time in public with either no clothes on or clothed only in a loin cloth. Fans are drawn to his charisma. Is he a super hero? No, he’s Steel Burkhardt, who plays the role of Berger in the touring production of HAIR, which is going to be playing at the Palace Theatre in downtown Cleveland from January 17th through the 29th.

Burkhardt, whose nickname is Steelman, is from Union, New Jersey. His local claim to fame is his attendance and graduation from Baldwin Wallace College.

How did he get from the Garden State to tiny Berea, Ohio?

During a recent phone interview, Burkhardt indicated that when he started his search for the “right” college, he was drawn to BW because of it’s ranking in the top five college musical theatre programs. During his first visit he instantly fell in love with the beautiful campus with places to ride his bike, the curriculum’s emphasis on self-empowerment and self-growth, the supportive rather than competitive nature of the program, and the quality of instruction.

He praises such faculty members as voice professor, Timothy Mussard, one of America’s most distinguished Heldentenors; Janeice Kelley-Kiteley, the dynamic, now retired dance instructor; Dr. Ellen Posman, Associate Professor of Religion; and, of course, Victoria Bussert, the heart of the music theatre program.

Bussert returned the admiration when she said of Steel, “I loved having him as a student -- always fun, generous and grounded.”

Burkhardt found that the BW stress on a music background, classical training and a balanced program allowed him to soar. It allowed him to present himself to potential agents and casting directors when he performed in the 2007 Senior Showcase in New York. It was from this experience that he got his agent and eventually was cast in the Central Park production of HAIR, which was followed by his performance in the revival of the show on Broadway, the London production, and now, the lead role of Berger in the touring production.

Ironically, Brukhardt’s introduction to HAIR was when he appeared in the show at BW.

Answers to questions he’s asked about the touring production:
•Yes, the famous nude scene, which caused bomb threats and pickets during the NY and touring show, climaxed on April 25, 1971, when a bomb exploded in front of Cleveland’s Hanna Theatre during the Age of Aquarius show’s run. Cast members are encouraged but not required to take off their clothes.
•The long tresses he displays on stage are his own…no extensions or a wig. He washes his hair once a week and just shakes it out and he’s ready to go.
•The show is Claude’s journey through free love and is personified by his love affair with Burger, which is implied but never really acted out on stage.
•The dance party at the end of the show when the audience members are invited up on stage to rock away is always energizing and is a celebration of life which encourages audience members to be “who you are.”
•The tour ends, ironically, in Cleveland, and then Burkhardt is back to New York to try out for hopefully a major role in another show.

An online bio summarizes Steel Burkhardt and HAIR. “Once upon a time Steel graduated from a school called Baldwin Wallace. He was shy in a small concert, then got naked in Central Park, was nude on a Broadway stage, then bared it again on the West End. Now he is ready for America…then perhaps the World!”

Special note: For a enlightening backstage tour of HAIR conducted by Steel Burkhardt go to: