Maybe not the show's loosely constructed book, which creaks in its
incoherent celebration of nonconformity. Yet its score remains a
remarkable musical time capsule for a turbulent period of protest, pot and free love.
No wonder ``Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert'' decided to end
its 2001 City Center
season with the show, which has music by Galt MacDermot (on stage at the keyboards) and book and
lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado.
When ``Hair'' first opened off-Broadway at the Public Theater in the fall
of 1967, anti-Vietnam War
sentiment was ablaze. By the time a revised version made its way to Broadway the following spring,
protests were even fiercer.
Put in that context, the musical today resonates with a political awareness
that stands the test of time.
And so does the score. ``Hair'' may have been the last Broadway musical to make it out of the theater
and onto the pop music charts. Besides ``Aquarius,'' ``Good Morning Starshine,'' ``Let the Sun Shine
In,'' and several others found their way into popular consciousness.
Standing at the center of the plot - if it can be called that - are best
friends Claude and Berger. They
are portrayed with anarchic likability by Luther Creek and Tom Plotkin, whose large, curly blond mop
does the musical's title proud.
Between draft-card burnings, love-ins, bad LSD trips and a parade of protest
marches, the two
wander through a New York filled with flower children, drugged-out hippies and outraged tourists who
don't approve of their wild goings-on.
The women in ``Hair'' are treated rather badly, from Sheila (Idina Menzel)
to little Crissy
(Jessica-Snow Wilson), although they get two of the best songs in the show - ``Easy to Be Hard'' and
MacDermot's melodies have mellowed into the mainstream, but they still
seem remarkably buoyant. So
do most of the lyrics by Ragni and Rado, particularly when they are not trying too hard to shock.
In fact, the deliberate attempts to shock audiences in 1968 - four-letter
words, the flouting of authority,
sexual references, gross-out humor - seem the most dated things about ``Hair'' in 2001. And the
musical's celebrated but dimly lighted nude scene has been eliminated here. After all, this is the concert
Director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall has staged the show with minimal
movement, and the
dancing doesn't seem to go much beyond the arm-waving variety.
Yet the musical's ending still exerts a powerful emotional pull as Claude
is drafted and sent off to
Vietnam, while the cast feverently sings ``Let the Sun Shine In.'' Knowing now what we didn't know
then, makes the moment even more striking.
One note of protest, though, has taken on a new life. ``Air,'' the musical's
hymn against pollution,
sounds remarkably fresh considering all the action - or nonaction - of the current president on
The City Center engagement of ``Hair'' ends May 7.
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