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NOTE: This review of Hair is part of a longer article on the opening of Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival's new theater.
Hair is many different things, but most important, it is alive and a sign of life. The whole idea of Joseph Papp's new Public Theater is wonderful and the first of his working arenas immediately becomes the most delightful show-space in New York, jumping into life with a young company positively pop-eyed with conviction and energy.
Square and hip will argue endlessly over whether Hair is the first real hippie show or a crass betrayal of the hippie ethos. But what it quite properly tries to do is present the hippie phenomenon as the mixed-up but inescapably alive eruption of energy that it is. Under gerald Freeman's brilliant direction the show has a strong happy heartbeat that can be felt in every seat in the house. Watching one of it's people is like watching one peppy proton in an atomic reaction - speaking lines, breaking into song, pivoting into dance, shooting into the audience to become a flash point in a constant crackle of music and movement.
A kind of free-form, plotless "Oh What a Happy Hippiedom", Hair ignites the key images and issues of the lost-and-found generation - youth vs. age, sex, love, the draft, race, drugs, Vietnam - into a vivid uproar that has more wit, feeling and musicality than anything since West Side Story. Lyricists Gerome Ragni and James Rado, composer Galt MacDermot, designer Ming Cho Lee, and 21 fresh faces and limber bodies have made the Public theater the most exciting theatrical prospect New York has seen in years.
Copyright 1967 Newsweek. All rights reserved.