Over at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on West 45th Street an incredibly exciting, exuberant and hair-raising event is happening. It’s the ultimate Be-In. A love fest for the young and old. An opportunity to go back to 1968 and remember. Or to see it live for the first time. HAIR – the American Tribal Love-Rock Musical has got to be the best revival of a Broadway musical this season. Or any season. Period.
Flower power. Free love. Peace. Pollution. Meditation. Marijuana. Burning draft cards. All symbols of the sixties, where hippies tried to expand their minds and find a way to co-exist peacefully with love flowing between the loins of every possible combination of sex partner. Ah, the good old days.
In 1968, HAIR raised and sang about all these issues. Did we pay attention? To some extent, yes. But there had to be some trade offs. The draft is gone but we are embroiled in a horrible new war. We have been dealing with the onslaught of aids for many years. Cell phones, blackberries and i-pods have arrived but so has the green house effect. Not only was HAIR a terrific entertainment, it tried to shock us into the realities of living in a brave new world.
That brave new world has been vividly brought back to phenomenal psychedelic life by director Diane Paulus who has infused a pumped up, adrenalin driven cast with enough love and creativity to keep the audiences coming and coming. They have as much fun as the audience which makes the audience have even a better time – if that’s possible.
There are forty songs. Many became hits. Many people know all the lyrics. HAIR has the feeling of a rock concert where everyone is encouraged to join in. The fabulous eclectic score – music by Galt MacDermot, lyrics and what little book there is by Gerome Ragni & James Rado still sounds fresh and exciting. “Aquarius” “I Believe in Love” “I Got Life” “Sodomy” “Easy to Be Hard” “Where Do I Go” “Good Morning Starshine” and “Let the Sun Shine In” are fantastically performed by the just perfect cast.
Leader of the tribe is naughty boy Berger – a bare footed, bare chested, bare legged Will Swenson with a magnetic smile and charm and enough energy to fuel a rocket. His ad lib delivery is sensational. A strong and sensitive Gavin Creel is the more introverted Claude who has to decide what to do once his draft notice arrives, complements and matches Swenson’s performance. Bryce Ryness as Woof is the third wonderful member of this trio. As the girls in their lives Sheila (Caissie Levy), Jeanie (Kacie Sheik) shine. What incredible voices have been assembled. Saycon Sengbloh went on for Sasha Allen (Dionne) and delivered a spellbinding “Aquarius”. Darius Nichols as the black stud Hud, flirts outrageously with the audience and has us in the palm of his…
Special mention must be made of Andrew Kober as Margaret Mead (Dad and Tribe member) Anyone who can take the stage like he does in the middle of one of the most exciting musicals, where talent is in abundance and stop the show with his comic timing and delivery of “My Conviction” is indeed special. He is simply amazing. As is everyone and everything else connected to the production. Especially the final heartfelt and moving moments. HAIR is not dated. It is more relevant than ever. See it. Love it.