Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Hair Today

A new production of the 60s musical is a surprise smash hit on Broadway--could it be that the intense emotions of the time are resonant again? See post below. New York Times Photo.

It's Happening...Again

A flubbed economy, crazed spiraling change that looks mostly downward, and empty theatres on least until recently. At least until...Hair?

Well, if we're to believe Ben Brantley in the New York Times, a revival of the quintessential sixties musical is "tearing down the house."

"This emotionally rich revival of “The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical” from 1967 delivers what Broadway otherwise hasn’t felt this season: the intense, unadulterated joy and anguish of that bi-polar state called youth... what distinguishes “Hair” from other recent shows about being young is the illusion it sustains of rawness and immediacy, an un-self-conscious sense of the most self-conscious chapter in a person’s life."

At the time we (well, people I knew) tended to think Hair was a bit artificial, but then it all depends on the vision of the people producing it, and maybe Diane Paulus has found the key to presenting it authentically. Brantley thinks so. "But there’s intelligent form within the seeming formlessness. And the whole production has been shaped in ways that find symmetry — and complexity — in a show that people tend to remember as a feel-good free-for-all."

Maybe it took the distance of time to see and portray the truth of our lives then: "The kids of “Hair” are cuddly, sweet, madcap and ecstatic. They’re also angry, hostile, confused and scared as hell — and not just of the Vietnam War, which threatens to devour the male members of their tribe. They’re frightened of how the future is going to change them and of not knowing what comes next."

That's pretty much it.

Oh, and Hair isn't the only show doing really well in the current doldrums. Brantley says there's another one "playing to packed houses" nearby: it's called West Side Story.