Broadway Review
by Theophilus Lewis
America Magazine - June 8, 1968

In the Biltmore's playbill, Hair, presently the hottest ticket on the Broadway market, is called an American tribal love-rock musical.  Whatever it's genre, the production is a saturnalia in scatology that voices the revolt of the hippie generation, which rejects all traditional values of the social order, as well as the amenities of civilized living.  There is no story, at least not one your observer could detect, only a melange of what a few years ago were regarded as indecencies.

If the American theatre is performing it's constitutional function according to to Hamlet's prescription - that is, reflecting the form and pressure of the time - we are living in the most licentious era since the age of the Caesers.  Perhaps Restoration society was more dissolute, but it could hardly have been more vulgar.  In Hair we may be observing a Hogarthian canvas of a nation in decline.

Objective criticism, of course, should include details.  We can start with the promotion, which makes a frank appeal to prurience.  The production more than makes good on the promised titillation.  The performers revel in so many of the more obscene short and ugly words that there can hardly be any left in the sewer.  In one scene several members of the cast of both sexes appear in the ultimate of nudity.

It is not likely that any really adult spectator will be shocked by the uninhibited exposure of the human anatomy. Far more offensive are the disrespectful handling of the flag and the sacrilegious mockery of the Christian liturgy.  One doubts that the impieties are representative of the vagaries of hippies, who seem to be passively alienated from current materialistic pressures rather than aggressively hostile to the residue of spiritual forces in the modern world.  Youths with anti-religious convictions are hardly likely to offer flowers to strangers.

The playbill offers the information that the book (what book?) and lyrics were written by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, and the music was composed by Galt MacDermot.  Tom O'Horgan directed the chaotic action.  While Mr. MacDermot's score is the most pleasing rock music your reporter has ever encountered, it is Mr. O'Horgan who dominates the show.

Since there is no coherent story, nomenclature is a problem.  It is not a satire, a revue or any other type of conventional music.  Perhaps New York's mayor would call it a happening.  As a sight show, Hair is highly amusing, especially the ludicrous costumes by Nancy Potts and the frenetic cavorting, advertised as dancing, guided by Julie Arenal.

Aside from it's gratuitous obscenities and derision of things sacred, Hair is novel and highly diverting.

Copyright America Magazine.  All rights reserved.

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