Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Finally a good Broadway musical revival. Actually, a fantastic one! I haven’t had so much fun -- or felt so young -- at a show since Jersey Boys several years ago. If you can only get to one show, this is the one to see. I want to go back!!
Director Diane Paulus and this totally engaged cast put on a spectacle that is bursting with energy. I didn’t feel I was at a show -- I felt I was at a happening, that these people really were hanging out together in Greenwich Village and we were with them.
I had wondered if a “tribal love-rock musical” set in 1967 and very specific to that time would seem dated. Not at all! This show is as fresh as any on Broadway. Choreographer Karole Armitage has the cast pulsating across the stage and into the aisles, singing all those great songs by Gerome Ragni, James Rado and Galt MacDermot -- remember “Let the Sun Shine In,” “Aquarius,” “Hair” and “Good Morning Starshine”? -- and frolicking in jeans, peasant tops and colorful garb designed by Michael McDonald.
This was my first time to actually see Hair -- I was in elementary school when it premiered in 1967 -- so I didn’t know the story, such as it is. I have had the original cast recording all these years, though, so I felt right at home with the songs.
With Gavin Creel in the pivotal role of Claude, a likable young man torn over whether to burn his draft card, the story is involving for more than just the feel-good pizzazz. I also really liked Caissie Levy as Shelia, the most political and social-conscious of the group.
This production of Hair began as a 40th anniversary concert presentation by the Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival at the Central Park's Delacorte Theater in 2007, which I missed. The Public then presented a full production last summer at the Delacorte; I had tickets one night but got rained out. The show I finally got to see Friday night at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre was well worth waiting for.
Unlike that other large-cast revival that opened recently -- West Side Story -- all of the actors in Hair are fully present to their parts. And all deserve mention. Will Swenson is the ultimate counterculture rebel Berger, the other leading members are Allison Case, Kacie Sheik, Sasha Allen, Bryce Ryness, Darius Nichols, Megan Lawrence, Andrew Kober and Steel Burkhardt. The ensemble includes Lauren Elder, Allison Guinn, Anthony Hollock, John Moauro, Ato Blankson-Wood, Brandon Pearson, Paris Remillard, Maya Sharpe, Theo Stockman, Tommar Wilson, Jackie Burns, Kaitlin Kiyan, Nicole Lewis, Megan Reinking and Saycon Sengbloh.
There’s a purity about these hopeful, free-spirited young people in spite of their free love and use of drugs. They stand up against racism and the war in Vietnam and challenge convention. For this reason Hair is really a show for any time, not a look back at a bygone era.
For tickets call (212) 239-6200, visit Telecharge. or go to the Hirschfeld’s box office at 302 W. 45th St. For further information visit HairBroadway.com