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'Hair'

The original rock musical comes rocketing back

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

By

Hair, Broadway, musical, Gavin Creel

Gavin Creel

Getty Images

Hair – the first rock musical that first rocked Broadway in 1968 – is back with a fantastic cast; the original blurry message about peace, love and whatever; and, of course, the nude scene.

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What This Show Is About

When a musical – like Hair – achieves iconic status in our collective cultural memory, a revival is as much “about” what it meant back in the day as what it means today.

More on that later.

In short, Hair is about a “tribe” of hippies in 1968 on New York's Lower East Side. Through songs that became pop hits, such as “Aquarius,” “Let the Sunshine,” “Easy to Be Hard” and, of course, “Hair,” various tribe members tell their stories. Every kid's story is overshadowed by the looming draft, the Vietnam War, the drug culture and the desire not to fall into the lives of their parents. In other words, the '60s.

The plot, such as it is, centers on two friends, Berger and Claude. Berger is the tribe's ringleader; Claude its conscience. Will he burn his draft card or won't he?

What You'll Like About 'Hair'

Hair features a huge cast of wildly talented young performers (none of whom was born in 1968 when it premiered on Broadway). Gavin Creel, as Claude, provides the right mix of rebellion, confusion and conscience to serve as a center for the action. Will Swenson, as Berger, is just untamed enough to make you feel uncomfortable.

But the excellence doesn't end with the principals. The entire cast dives into roles with abandon. You are absolutely convinced they're having fun up there rocking your world with their outlandish flaunting of every taboo and convention. Many of the lyrics are startling today; you can only imagine what they were like 40 years ago. And there I go putting this show in context of that show.

Hair opened last summer in a must-see Central Park run, and much of the cast and creative crew transferred. Transferring with it was director Diane Paulus, who has staged a taut production. Much of what seems spontaneous is carefully planned, and to make careful direction and choreography appear as sponteneity takes talent.

The music by Galt MacDermot and lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado remain infectious, outlandish and fun.

Things To Consider

I need to add a disclaimer: I hated the '60s. While I enjoyed the performances and craft of Hair, the show made my skin crawl. Far too many contemporaries of mine wasted years of their lives in that haze of drug-fueled hedonism. Not a few contemporaries lost their lives.

It was the time we permantently mistook freedom for license, when every boundary was removed from the normal process of young adult rebellion while at the same time the concept of rebellion was elevated to transcendent status. We created a religion out of hormonal reactions.

I didn't enjoy living through it, and I don't enjoy seeing it romanticized.

If you're taking young children – and there were plenty of preteens at the performance I attended – be aware there is simulated sex, real nudity and lots of profanity. Additionally, contrary to the prayers of Man in Chair, the fourth wall crashes down with alarming regularity.

Where and When

  • Al Hirschfeld Theatre
    302 West 45th Street
  • Show Times and Tickets
  • Previews: March 6, 2009
  • Opening: March 31, 2009
  • Closing: Open-ended run
  • Run Time: 2 hours, 25 minutes (including intermission)

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