Friday, May 22, 2009

Hair (The SOB Review)

Hair (The SOB Review) - Al Hirschfeld Theatre, New York, New York

*** (out of ****)

Want a good buzz?

Then go see Diane Paulus' inspired third coming of Hair -- unequivocally Broadway's best musical revival this season.

Granted, given some of the disappointments among tuners this year, that may not be saying much, especially when compared with last season's choices. After all, for a supposed counterculture American Tribal Love Rock Musical -- originally perceived as brimming with rebellious mojo -- Gerome Ragni and James Rado's plot remains wafer thin. And 40 years after it originally appeared, Hair feels more like a latter-day vaudeville meets sixties-style burlesque romp.

Even though I was just over six years old when the tuner first appeared on Broadway, at the risk of sounding like an old curmudgeon, I never saw what the fuss was about when I had previously seen Hair. Fortunately, Paulus lets the sun shine in with her exceptional cast radiating the alternately playful and poignant score Ragni and Rado co-wrote for Galt MacDermot's marvelous melodies. If the second act isn't exactly the first's equal, Paulus more than makes up for it with a heartwrenching conclusion that sneaks up you with a powerful wallop. It left me teary-eyed.

Credit Tony nominee Gavin Creel for that. Having missed the opportunity to play the Christ-like lead in the aborted Main Stem revival of Godspell earlier this season, Creel more than redeems himself by taking on a strikingly similar role in which his charisma and exquisite voice win the day. As the sacrificed Claude, Creel seems to save our souls while shattering our hearts. That kind of redemption rightly deserves Tony recognition.

Similarly, Will Swenson's brash and brassy Berger beguiles with a starmaking performance that is as bold as it is breathtaking. Andrew Kober, Saycon Sengbloh, Bryce Ryness and Caissie Levy all add exuberent energy to the tribal beat with noteworthy performances.

Despite my personal enjoyment, which was not simply limited to leaping on stage after the audience was invited to tread the boards during the reprise of "Let The Sun Shine In," I have one cautionary note: this show may appear better the closer you are to the stage. Unlike me, my various friends who saw this revival from the mezzanine -- including two at the very same performance I saw -- left substantially less impressed.

Perhaps it just helps to be entangled in the thick of this head of Hair.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 23 May, 2009, Blogger Esther said...

I'm so excited about seeing Hair and I'm sitting close, too! Despite the admittedly thin plot, I've always loved the music. I'm excited about seeing Saycon on stage again and Gavin Creel for the first time!

At 26 May, 2009, Anonymous BobsViews said...

Hair is the only show that I’ve ever seen that felt like an experience. The cast aka The Tribe is excellent, the production is fantastic and the songs sound better then ever. The shows themes (Sex, War, Drugs, Race) are as relevant today as they were forty years ago. The best part is the bond that the Tribe forms with the audience. It resonates with everyone long after they’ve left the theater. I urge all theatergoers to order tickets, participate in the show and dance in the finale. You will never forget the Hair experience.

At 29 May, 2009, Anonymous chris caggiano said...

Steve: It's funny, but I had a couple of friends say that the best place to see this show was *from* the mezzanine. They were blown away by the sense of movement and dynamism in the show, and by the stunning stage picture at the end of the show.

I loved Hair even more the second time, and not just because I got to see Esther shake her booty on the Hirschfeld stage. Somehow this inchoate and fragmented show comes together in this production to produce a powerful and emotionally satisfying whole.


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