If Hair Were Revived in 2016
by Arnold M. Auerbach
The New York Times - April 11, 1971

The following might possibly be written some years hence by The Times's dance, drama, film, Wall Street, baseball, and ping-pong critic - Elvic Brasen.

What a brilliant idea it was to revive Hair! And how clever to duplicate the ambiance of the original production: the low building devoted solely to dramatic presentations (our elders called them "theaters"), the quaint, old-fashioned 7:30 curtain, instead of our 5 P.M. monstrosity, which seems designed solely to get Australian commuters home to melbourne in time for tea.

And how canny of the producers to coax Gerome Ragni and James Rado out of their Scarsdale retirement to enact their original roles!  When the two elderly gentlemen - now prosperous marijuana farmers - came cavorting onstage to shake their shaggy gray locks at the audience, their erstwhile impertinence, though somewhat muted by the kindly twinkle behind their spectacles, was as endearing as ever.

At the preview, which I saw two weeks ago, the once notorious nude scene, now a cliché of "Late Show" cassettes, was enlivened by several old-timers in the audience who, carried away by nostalgia, defied flabbiness and arthritis and took off their clothes to join the cast onstage.  (Here let me compliment ex-Mayor Lindsay on retaining his figure despite advancing years!)

hair's book, of course, was never it's strong point.  Yet, it's "draft dodgers", "pot smokers", and "acid heads" (if memory serves, they were also called "flappers") remain charming relics of a naive era, when young people still thought protests might shorten the war in Vietnam - soon, let us hope, about to wind down.

As for the show's direction, only the sternest of purists would quibble at the few anachronistic touches which have crept in, such as the fiddler on the roof at the opening, or the Sigmund Romberg duet in Act Two.  Perhaps these embellishments were not part of the original production, as some sticklers insist.  But, to quote the old Gershwin ballad, "Who Cares?".  They are pastiches of an untroubled period.  (Was Coolidge our president then, or Nixon?  Only our grannies know for sure.)

Yes, as the decades recede and memory blurs, let's be grateful for Hair.  It recalls a time when, mercifully, young people were sedate and respectful of their elders, and not in the present state of frenetic ferment.

Go see this revival, by all means.  As you may have gathered, I come to praise hair, not to bury it.

Copyright The New York Times Company.  All rights reserved.

To return to the Hair Articles Index click here.
                                                                          Or use your Back button to return to where you were.