I Left It at the Astor
by Gerald Weales
The Reporter - April 4, 1968

NOTE: This except is a review of Hair at The Cheetah Discotheque, and is part of a longer article about Joseph Papp's Public Theater.

....My enthusiasm for what is going on at the Public Theater should not be taken as unrestrained admiration for its productions to date.  I cannot report on Hair in its initial environment because I did not get around to seeing it until it had moved uptown to the Cheetah, a big, square (more than architecturally, I suspect) hall that is normally a discotheque.  What Hair has most to offer is the good natured exuberance implicit in even the most ordinary rock music and embodied in the vitality of young performers.  It has several amiable numbers - the ballad Frank Mills for instance; yet its songs are commonplace, musically and lyrically, compared to the work of the more sophisticated groups - the Rolling Stones in their most recent manifestation and the Beatles Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band.  The plot, about which no one cares very much, is the old standard about the boy who loves the girl who loves the other boy who...Although the show, despite its self-mockery, embraces the somewhat amorphous love ethic that is presumably rampant in hippiedom, it is a love that never quite takes in the two ugly ducklings who keep pressing their noses against the windows of their peer group.

Hair also has some satirical points to make - against war and air pollution - but it is not really an attack on our society, nor a plea for a more livable one.  It is the creation of a bogus subculture, like the one that used to exist in Our Gang comedies, a children's world, divorced from reality, which is a comfort to middle-aged audiences who are bound to fins it more attractive than Tompkins Square and certainly more palatable than Needle park.  There is much singing and talking about pot, LSD, and sex and a casual use of obscenities, but I went indulgently soft while I watched it and found myself thinking of Peck's Bad Boy and Penrod and Sam.  Although it is a great deal less revolutionary than it thinks it is, Hair is at least alive.  When it opens on Broadway this month, as the ads keep promising it will, it should be the liveliest musical in that tired neck of the woods.

Copyright The Reporter.

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