My quest to see the revival of Hair began last summer, when it was part of the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park. What an amazing atmosphere to hear the iconic songs and experience the peace, love, and happiness of the musical (and in the spirit of the 60’s–for free). Every night I would “sit” in a virtual line hoping to get tickets for that evening’s performance, but no such luck. So I was super excited to learn that the production would be moving out of the park and onto the Broadway stage.
Director Diane Paulus creates a simple but electric revival whose message is just as relevant today as it was in 1967. The set is clean, sparse and incorporates the band within it’s design. I appreciated this because it lets you focus on the actor’s performances and the music, which is the main attraction, rather than over the top special effects.
The love and rock began immediately as Dionne (Sasha Allen), backed by the tribe, belts out “Aquarius.” I grew up in a home of 5th Dimension fans and have only been familiar with their version of the song. To be honest –I wasn’t the biggest fan–but to hear it (and see it) sung with such power and emotion, I think my opinion has been changed.
As the first act progresses, you meet the members of the tribe and learn why each is drawn into the rebellion of this counter culture. Even though each character is kind of a stereotype, the actors do an excellent job of filling them with heart, soul and new life, which keeps the audience emotionally connected to their journeys. The audience is very physically connected to the performance due to the movement of the tribe throughout the theater. It really created a sense of unity and balance between the players, the viewers and the venue as well as highlighting the organic nature of Karole Armitage’s choreography.
The first act is as good as the second and the second is as good as the first–there are no dull moments to be had. The first act sets the stage–delivers big numbers like “Manchester, England” and “Hair” and ends with the always controversial disrobing of the cast (tastefully done with subtle lighting and raw emotion). The second act brings the audience on a hallucinogenic journey through the reality of fear–fear of war–fear of death–where the cast brilliantly morphs from one dream to the next-changing form through each song and scene. Even though the show ends with “Let the Sunshine In” it is such a climax–you definitely get a feeling that it was just the beginning. The beginning of their fight–against and in the war. Even though things are bleak (then and now) we have to try to let the sunshine in.
I’m not a Broadway connoisseur but I know what I like and what moves me and what’s fun–and Hair does all of these things.