Once in awhile we latch onto a completely crazy idea and just run with it. That was the case this past weekend when we took a spur of the moment trip up to New York to see the new production of Hair on Broadway! We were up and back in one day – it was crazy and fun. Of course we got to have a lot of fun with TheKara, so that made it truly sweet.
I’ve always wanted to see this musical performed, but never had the opportunity. It’s been one of my favorites for ages, and some day I dream of being able to choreograph the show myself. So to see this on Broadway – critically acclaimed and selling out in its first weeks since opening was a special treat.
Hair is a unique musical in that the plot, such as it is, doesn’t amount to much. It exists more as a backdrop for a varied songbook that covers everything from rock and gospel to ballads and country(ish). I was impressed by director Diane Paulus’ ability to present a coherent tale, even if the first half still felt like a continual excuse to trot out another song. By the time the show approached intermission, the story solidified and we were drawn into Claude’s push and pull decision-making as he weighs freedom of self versus freedom of country; although it may have resonated more in the Bush era, the anti-war message still feels strong and relevant. The intensity was powerful enough ending the second half that I actually didn’t notice for awhile that the cast was suddenly all naked! (Kudos for the unconscious beauty of that moment that didn’t seem salacious in the least.) The show even ended in an unconventional way – the Tribe somberly proceeding out of the theater leaving Claude [Gavin Creel] behind all alone.
But it certainly isn’t all serious! This is a rip-roaring show that celebrates drugs, sex and silliness. Berger [Will Swenson] was more than willing to play around and show of his…assets…proving to be the class clown throughout. The whole supporting cast (“the Tribe”) was a delight, including Woof [Bryce Ryness] as a kinda-gay gentle soul, Jeanie [Kacie Sheik] the pregnant smoker, and Dionne [Saycon Sengbloh] the soulful center of the group. (Sadly we didn’t get to see Sasha Allen of Camp fame playing Dionne, but Sengbloh did a great job.)
The set was simple (very Rentesque), but the costumes were a hippie delight. I felt like the choreography by Karole Armitage was too simplistic, but it was true to her style, which I can appreciate.
What’s really wonderful about this production is how much the Tribe brings the audience into the experience. Continually throughout the show they prowled around the aisles – passing out flowers and flyers, toussling people’s hair, and pulling people up to dance. In fact, after the curtain call, they brought dozens of patrons up on the stage to revel and dance to “Let the Sunshine In.” It was quite the love-in!
We also got to meet some of the cast and get autographs afterwards, which was the perfect cap on a wonderful experience (shout out to Lauren Elder!). It was well worth the drive and I hope this show runs for a good long while and picks up a Tony or three.