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A CurtainUp Review

When the moon is in the seventh house
and Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars

— The Tribe
A scene from Hair
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
Last season's hit revival of Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical has returned to Broadway for what they call "The Summer of Love." Considering the high spirits and awesome energy being generated by the first national touring company now at the St. James Theater, there is every indication that their recent 20-cities-in-9-months tour only served as a warm up. The company, featuring members of the Central Park tribe, Broadway revival tribe, London revival tribe and new tribe members, will continue its tour following the limited New York run scheduled to end September 10th. For a song list and our reviews of Hair in Central Park, on Broadway and in London go here.

What else is left to say about this ground-breaking musical that first appeared in 1968? A stirring and lauded new staging by director Diane Paulus in Central Park in 2008 gave the Public Theater the encouragement they needed to transfer it to Broadway in 2009 where its new life and new look captured the hearts and minds of a new generation even as it also re-captured the generation that had originally puts its hopes and dreams on the power of this musical's message.

It is inevitable that there should also be a sense of sadness within its message of love and peace as it continues to reflect almost the same prevailing government and social policies that sparked its creators. Of course, Hair still surges joyously and passionately with anti-establishment sentiments, even if those exemplified and empowered by hippies and "flower children" sound a bit more naïve in these times.

Although I have seen both the production in the Park and again on Broadway, I was particularly impressed by the number of young people, actually a sizable majority in attendance at the performance that I saw. They were not only familiar with the gloriously provocative score by Gerome Ragni & James Rado, but had no qualms about screaming out their pleasure. Remember that these are the songs that essentially validated rock as legitimate theater music over a half century ago.

Despite a few cast changes, the current tribe is continuing its affirmation of peace, love, and its defense of human rights and freedoms. I couldn't detect any significant changes in the production. The band is still on-stage and sounding just fine perched within set designer's Scott Pask's effective environment, one that serves as a perfect showcase for Michael McDonald's colorful costumes.

Of the major cast changes, the good news is that Steel Burkhardt is dynamic as the acrobatically as well as amorously inclined Berger. Paris Remillard has a terrific voice and is extremely personable as his best friend, Claude. The musical continues to have an emotional pull thanks to Matt DeAngelis as Woof, Darius Nichols (still in his original role) as Hud, Kaitlin Kiyan, as Crissy and Caren Lyn Tackett as Sheila. Tanesha Ross was sensational in the role of Dionne (usually played by Phyre Hawkins) at the performance I saw and got the musical off to a rousing start leading "the tribe" in "Aquarius."

I may make two critical points: The first with regard to the famous nude moment that closes Act 1. It could be my imagination, but the original impact made by the entire company disrobing in the shadows is now lost by it being protracted to the point of pandering. What made that moment so explicitly unforgettable was the beauty of the surprise followed by a quick blackout. It was a beautiful moment and it made a powerful statement. The statement they are making now is almost smug. The second point is that the men's bodies are all so magnificently sculptured: abs, pecs and biceps that they make you wonder if the characters they are playing spend more time at the athletic club than they do in Central Park.

Hair seems to be committed more than ever committed to involving the audience and getting them worked-up from the opening to the finale "Let the Sun Shine In. " An invitation for everyone to get up and dance with the cast onstage results in hundreds making a mad dash down the aisles leaving only a few like myself willing to just watch. It is amazing to see how much the spirit of the hippie era still exists in so many of us whether we were there at the time or yet to be born. The constant effusion of love, as expressed in Hair through its music and dance, is an experience that I was happy to experience yet again.

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