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When HAIR opened Joseph Papp's new Public theater earlier this season this reviewer called it "a vivid uproar that has more wit, feeling, and musicality than anything since West Side Story" and later voted for it (along with only one other critic) as the season's best musical. Now moved uptown, revised, and staged by a new director, Tom O'Horgan, it is a smash hit and people are making noises about how it's going to revolutionize the Broadway musical.
Hair does indeed make any musical on the Broadway boards look like high noon in a Christian Science reading room. O'Horgan, a driving driving force in off-off-Broadway's La Mama Troupe, treats his performers the way jackson Pollack treated paint, hurling them together in fantastically convoluted patterns that explode in a multifarious, endlessly inventive chain reaction.
but something has been lost. Under Gerald Freeman's direction downtown, Gerome Ragni and James Rado's show took an attitude toward it's hippie characters at once compassionate and satirical. And Galt MacDermot's sort-of-rock score fell into beautifully individualized numbers that hooked right on to the show's people and events.
Put-on: Augmented band and all, MacDermot's score is now more a trampoline of sound from which O'Horgan launches his freak out patterns. And a taint of camp and aggressive put-on has entered Hair - in one scene between a hippie and his mother, mom whips open her mink to reveal herself as a lisping guy wearing nothing but jockey shorts.
There is no denying the sheer kinetic drive of this new Hair. And the only trouble with it's vaunted nude flash-scene is that it's not lit well enough to really see this fleshy manifesto of the beautiful young people who give their all as no Broadway cast has ever done before. But there is something hard, grabby, slightly corrupt about O'Horgan's virtuosity, like Busby Berkeley gone bitchy. For me the show's peak was the first ten minutes, when the cast comes up the theater aisles on stage in a heart-melting, sculptured rhapsody of slow motion.
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