The initial offering at the N.Y. Shakespeare Festival's new permanent home in the former Astor Library is an ingenious idea, artfully mounted, performed by a talented and enthusiastic cast. While it's far from a total success, it is worth seeing.
Pretentiously dubbed "an American tribal love-rock musical" the show is actually a freewheeling, free-form musical drama about the hippie movement, with a hard-rock score and with-it lyrics. It's as contemporary as the latest East Village craze.
The book reveals nothing new about hippies, however. It says they scorn middle-class values, hate war, love pot, indulge in lots of sex, dig outré garb and long hair, etc., etc. What makes the show interesting is the use of strictly contemporary music and dancing to illuminate the hippie ethos. While the musical numbers do little to advance the story line, of which there is little anyway, they are tuneful and swinging, and demonstrate that today's' music has a place in today's theatre.
The book, such as it is, has to do with the immanent Army induction of a long-maned flower child, and his attempts to seduce an unwilling chick who prefers painting protest posters.
The production has merits. It moves swiftly, using the excellent technical facilities in the new Florence Sutro Anspacher Theatre. The young performers are infectiously enthusiastic as they crawl, march, run, and hop across the postage-stamp stage and up and down the sloping aisles. Gerald Freeman's staging, however, seems well organized.
The cast is generally first rate. Walker Daniels is appealing as the unfortunate draftee. Jill O'Hara, as the object of his affection, displays a lyrical set of pipes, and acting skill. Gerome Ragni, the co-author, is often funny as a drop-out, but is no singer. The entire cast shows plenty of terping talent.
Ming Cho Lee's settings are solidly in the psychedelic
vein, and Theoni V. Aldredge's costumes are convincingly hippie-ish.
Martin Aronstein's lighting complements the production, with much mod effect.
Copyright Variety. All rights reserved.