Hair ****

Hair, opened on Broadway at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on Tuesday March 31, 2009, what follows is a review of the original central park production.

Hair, opened on Broadway at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on Tuesday March 31, 2009, what follows is a review of the original central park production.

The Public Theater’s superb revival of their 1967 landmark rock musical, Hair, makes a potent connection to our current times with an inspired physical staging by Diane Paulus. She emphasizes the shared hunger for political change, which was evident then and is timely today, to connect with the audience. And she draws passionate performances from her outstanding young ensemble for a triumphant production under the moons and stars in Central Park. The evening ends on a thrilling upbeat note, as the audience storms the stage for a joyous dance party, in a celebratory reprise of “Let the Sun Shine In.”

Set in the Vietnam era the musical is an anthem to the idealism of flower power and pacifism combined with an urgent plea for the end of the war that speaks vividly to our country’s involvement in Iraq as well.

The glorious rock-pastiche score by Galt MacDermot is played with wild abandon by a 12 piece on-stage orchestra. And the clever lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni, the duo responsible for the book as well, strike a witty inspirational tone that is the perfect compliment to the tale told in a collage of interwoven vignettes. The story follows a group of New York hippies, known as the Tribe, as they attempt to keep one of their members out of the Vietnam War by whatever means necessary.

The forty fabulous songs, however, galvanize the message. The many musical highlights include “Aquarius,” “Donna,” ”Hair,” ’Easy to be Hard,”’ Where Do I Go,” White Boys,” Good Morning Star Shine,” and “Let the Sun Shine In.”

Director Diane Paulus, who staged a raucous Turnadot: The Rumble for the Ring at Bay Street last season, is best known for the Off Broadway hit The Donkey Show. Her meticulous approach to the material embraces a visceral free flowing atmosphere, which is the hallmark of the musical itself. As she has done on her previous shows Paulus effectively makes use of the space, moving the actors into the audience to unify the connection, while honoring the liberating spirit of the musical and underlining the show’s relevance to our present social climate. She has wisely made judicious cuts to the book adding to the momentum and emotional impact of the entire evening.

Aided by Karol Armitage’s pulsating choreography, the gifted ensemble deliver committed, overwhelmingly energetic work resulting in a powerful feeling of unity. Yet the evening is full of marvelous sand-out work, as well, and all the performers have a moment to shine.

What resonates most clearly from the extraordinary evening is the communal theme that is the core of Hair. Paulus has created a unifying element that is dynamically apparent everywhere in her fluid staging..

Photos: Michal Daniel

Hair officially launched the Public Theater’s downtown home on Lafayette Street moving to Broadway the following year, where it stayed for four years. Now back with a production that is as good as it gets, let’s hope the rumored talk of a move to Broadway will actually happen. How they will recreate the magic from the park setting is a feat I don’t envy, but the evening’s “be in” at the end of the show is an element I hope they will retain.

The cast: Patina Renea Miller, Will Swenson, Caren Lyn Manuel, Bryce Ryness, Jonathan Groff, Darius Nichols, Kacie Sheik, Allison Case, Megan Lawrence, Andrew Kober, Nicole Lewis, Saycon Sengbloh, Jackie Burns, Kaitlyn Kiyan, Megan Reinking, Ato Blankson-Wood, Steel Burkhardt, Lauren Elder, Allison Guinn, Anthony Hollock, Kaitlin Kiyan, John M. Moauro, Brandon Pearson, Paris Remillard, Maya Sharpe, Theo Stockman, and Tommar Wilson.

By: Gordin & Christiano
Originally Published In Dan’s Papers

Hair opened on August 6, 2008 at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park near the West 81st Street entrance. Tickets are free (two per person) and may be picked up at the theater after 1PM on the same day of the performance. Tue – Sunday at 8pm now until September 14.