by Nat Marcus
I was totally unfamiliar with the musical Hair until seeing it. I knew that there were hippies, a whole lot of flowers, and most obviously, a lot of hair. My preconceptions all turned out to be correct, but it was a musical that struck me in many more ways than just beautiful flowing locks.
The show follows a Tribe of young bohemians camping out in Central Park, practicing the ways of love, peace, and tolerance. Claude, the troubled leader of this group of hippies, serves as the narrator. The songs speak of the political and social problems the activist youth face in the 1960’s fighting against sexual and cultural repression, but also of the love that’s spread in the Age of Aquarius and the mind-opening hallucinogenics that are shared throughout the Tribe. As the pressure to join the army fighting in the Vietnam War increases and the Tribe begins to fall apart, Claude wonders if fighting for one’s identity at all times is better than having no identity at all. One thing that sets Hair apart from other musicals is the lack of dialogue between songs; instead, the plot is almost entirely moved forward by song. I enjoyed simply listening to the psychedelic melodies the cast sings to develop the story (and was spared from the agonizingly corny musical acting). One of the most unique about the show is the energy that the ensemble brings onstage and reatins throughout the whole musical. This energy is brought into the audience as well - during some songs, the Tribe comes down into the seats and dances with audience members, which adds a whole new layer of excitement to the performances.
Although Hair takes place more than 40 years ago, I can relate to the desire to fight against repression and fight for what I think is right. It is a show that I would recommend to anyone in the mood for an uplifting, funny, and powerful musical. Especially if you're not usually into musicals (like me), Hair will make you think differently.
HOW TO SEE THE SHOW: $25 lottery rush 2 hours before show; $25 student rush • Al Hirschfeld Theatre, 302 W. 45th St.