Kacie Sheik chats with Metro about what it’s like to play the iconic role of Jeanie, the pregnant, pot-smoking hippie who watches over the tribe in “Hair.” An original cast member since the 2007 concert, Sheik talks us through the highlights of the 2009 revival tour that has returned to Broadway for a limited-run Summer of Love, ending September 10 at the St. James Theatre (246 W. 44th Street).
So you’ve been with the “Hair” revival since the one-night concert in Central Park in 2007 with the Public Theater, right?
We did a 40th anniversary concert [in 2007] that we rehearsed for a week … there’s so many songs in the score of “Hair,” and we learned it in a week. Michael McDonald put together some beautiful hippie garb for us, for a concert we did three times. And that sparked the idea to do an actual run in “Shakespeare in the Park” 2008 season with the Public Theatre. And then audiences just kept coming. So that’s kind of how it all started. The New York audience is so excited and so ready to be a part of this “Hair” experience with us. … I think we extended two or three times, we ended up with several weeks running in Central Park in 2008.
And that went on to become your Broadway debut?
I made my Broadway debut with “Hair,” and then I’ve been with “Hair” since that, since 2009. We went to London in 2010, the original cast. And there’s about seven of us left with this company who’ve been with this production of “Hair” and each incarnation since 2007. So now there’s a brand new crop of hippies from when we started rehearsal this past October. … A couple of months ago when our producers said, “You guys, this is a crazy idea, but we’re gonna do a Summer of Love … there’s a Broadway house, it’s gonna be really exciting.” We looked around and we had 12 Broadway debuts [from the cast of 30].
Do you know how many performances you’ve done?
I do! When “Hair” was opening in Broadway in 2009, [my roommate] was opening just a week later in the original cast of “Rock of Ages.” … And they just celebrated their 1,000th performance. So I can estimate that if you add in our 10 weeks in Central Park to the time we were transitioning and we went to London – we were dark for like three weeks – I think we’re very similar to 1,000 performances. And that’s myself and Darius Nichols, who plays Hud, We’re the two company members who’ve played the same role for all 1,000-ish performances. And then there are several of us from the park who moved to different roles. Before this is all over, before we have to say goodbye, it’d be great to get an actual, final count. Former cast member Andrew Kober [and I] used to try to estimate in our head, and we think about half a million people may have seen us naked at this point. [Laughs]
I didn’t actually notice – do you wear your pregnancy belly in that scene?
It’s funny when some people were trying to notice, because they’re that interested. … They always question, “Are you really pregnant?” Or [at the stage door] there’s always, “I told you she wasn’t pregnant!” What the costume designers came up with was like a nude belly change. I have an Act I pregnancy suit and an Act II pregnancy suit; it’s a full suit, like a leotard. And then when Crissy [Kaitlin Kiyan] is singing “Frank Mills” – it’s like the only costume change for the company, aside from intermission – I put on this belly with a belly button and it’s matched to my skin tone. It was very cool to go into the fitting. I put it on just around my abdomen. We used to describe it as a giant knee pad. And in that way, I get to participate in this momentous part of the show and the story – and of an actor’s career, to experience that with your company every night in front of the audience that you’re sharing this really personal story with. I remember when the park was happening, and they [asked] if I want to … be a part of that scene, and my boyfriend – he did “Hair” in high school – he was one of the big advocates for the nude pregnancy belly to work out, he was like, “Oh my God, you have to!”
You do drugs onstage while pregnant – have you received any flak about that?
Yes. It’s mostly about that line, “As Mary Magdalene once said: ‘Jesus I’m getting stoned!’” … We get some very funny comments, and I believe there was a letter sent to stage management thanking us for the show – this was back on Broadway [in 2009] – and being so true to the times and to the story, but [they said]: “I’m just a little worried about the actress who plays Jeannie. Should she be jumping around as much as she is, and smoking marijuana?” And this letter was supposedly from a gynecologist. So it’s not so obvious to people looking that this could be an actress in a pregnancy suit. They’re with us every step of the way. Just last week someone put their hand on the belly, when we’re just ourselves, they just sang the encore with us. I’m saying, “Thank you for coming.” And this audience member was touching my belly, saying, “I knew you were pregnant, I knew you were really pregnant.” As she’s touching this stomach! I just smiled and nodded; you know, it’s great to go along with the belief.
Your character also has the unreciprocated love for the character named Claude, who is not the father of her child.
That’s the meat of the part – just not knowing what’s going to happen at the end. Just to not know that he’s going to do what he does. Playing that you don’t know, that this time you can save him. So my storyline is: This time he is gonna look up when I’m standing over him, telling audiences about my love for him! This time he is gonna look up and return it! … Maybe it’s that one night where he won’t say, “Jeannie, be a good fly and buzz off.” There’s so much hope, she’s so hopeful for the bigger picture and for that relationship. But she’s gonna support him and she’s gonna do everything she can for the betterment of the tribe and her family. … [She has] a maternal relationship to the tribe, absolutely. I’m gonna take care of everyone around me. I’m always gonna grab someone’s hand and hug someone. It’s instinctive at this point. Because they’re my friends, and we’re each up there with our hearts on the line every night. And I definitely am that den mother, that grounded force. And she’s very aware of how everyone feels.
It’s coming to a close soon, so what’s next for you?
We’re actually going back on tour. The funny part of this whole situation with our brave and courageous producers is that this is actually a stop on the tour. It’s a summer engagement. And then we’re back on the road again! You can find our upcoming tour dates on the website [www.hairontour.com].