Last night we went to see Hair in previews at the Al Hirschfeld Theater. The place was packed with folks of almost all ages—some sporting 1960’s type tie-dyed T-shirts and beads. I hadn’t seen the musical when it played in 1967-8—I was too young—so this was my first chance to see it in live performance with a professional cast. The staging made great use of aisles and doors as ways to involve the audience—nice for example, having Burger (Will Swenson--on the right in the picture above) come over to put his arms around me as he sang part of one song, the songs and dancing were high energy pieces that made it across the decades well, and whatever they used to get the smell of weed going through the hall—hard to believe it was pot itself—made it even more realistic. I enjoyed the performance a lot. While it clearly didn’t have the controversy it would have had playing to the 1960’s audiences who would have had a stronger reaction to the cursing, drugs, sex, treatment of the American flag, and nudity, it served instead as both a walk down memory lane and a critique of American society then and now.
It was a chance to remember what it felt like to wear bellbottoms or elephant bells with contrasting cloth added into the bottom seams, how much sexier men look with long hair, and how questioning authority played such a big role in day-to-day teen life. And, in the next to last scene, when Claude (Gavin Creel) came on with his hair trimmed and his military uniform on, it was also a chance to wonder how many of the older folks in the audience had at some point in the years since the 70s, made that same kind transition from free and wild to tamed and tailored during the forty years since.