Off-Broadway Festival Opener
by Daphne Kraft
Newark Evening News - October 30, 1967

A new hippie rock-musical called hair moved into the Public theater last night with the drive and virility of a carefully managed hurricane.  In his program notes about The New York Shakespeare festival, newly housed at the theater, producer Joseph Papp explains why the contemporary scene is being used for the lead off production.  This dazzling, innovative show needs no explanation but to be witnessed.

It is the varied spectrum of hippie life that is being depicted in Hair, but the slender love plot authors gerome Ragni and James Rado have strung together about a flower boy about to be drafted is relatively unimportant.  What shine in the musical are the songs and dances, full of vitality and candor and the way they have been staged.

The music by composer Galt MacDermot is catchy and has an urgent beat.  It is the way the music is synchronized with lyric and body movement that is dynamic.  Partly, this is due to the imaginative staging of gerald Freeman who has coupled the concepts of open theater with intermediate techniques of sound and lighting to arrive at a powerful stage package.

A great deal of the real life of this musical stems from the unbelievably young and energetic troupe of over 20 actors, Negro and white, dancers and singers, musicians and comics, acrobats and soloists, who have formed a fine unified ensemble.

Hair is a string of ensemble numbers, meshed together with a few solo parts in two acts of moving musical entertainment.  These numbers are musical numbers of rebuke, as in the opening number, "Red, Blue, and White" which puts down the war scene.  So does the frantic choreography depicting Indians, Buddhist minks, spacemen and Viet Cong, unraveling like knitting in rows, with silent violence in a dance number in the second act.  The dances of rejoicing are zesty, lusty ones concerned with life itself as only young, fresh performers can express life.  There is the rushing momentum in "I Got Life", "Easy To Be Hard" and "Walking In Space".

No small measure of the interest in this show is in its grasp and perfect handling of the new theatre techniques available with electronic sound and new strobe lights.

This presentation has incorporated the very walls of the new theater itself which are plastered with blow-ups of current news and psychedelic paisley prints.  The choreography itself suggests a splash of perfectly timed patterns.  It is the kind of verve and vitality which marks Hair a musical interplay of superb quality.

Copyright The Newark Evening News.

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