Hair Ages Gracefully at the Center
AP wire Review
by Michael Kuchwara
Friday May 4 7:02 PM ET
               NEW YORK (AP) - The Age of Aquarius is 30-plus and counting, yet
               ``Hair'' rocks on.

               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
               ``Frank Mills.''

               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
               environmental issues.

               The City Center engagement of ``Hair'' ends May 7.

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