4 out of 4 Stars
Ever dream of being a dancer on Broadway? Your day has finally arrived. Seriously.
In the finale of Broadway’s exuberant revival of “Hair,” the audience is invited to dance with the entire cast onstage. It is a communal celebratory conclusion to a theatrical experience you will not soon forget.
The Public Theater, which first premiered “Hair” in 1967, concluded its 2007 Shakespeare in the Park season with a free concert revival. It was so good that the Public remounted “Hair” with the same cast as a full-scale revival in 2008.
The experience of seeing “Hair” in Central Park, exposed to nature and the elements, simply cannot be reproduced. “Hair” also took on a new political relevance last summer when Barack Obama was still running for the presidency.
But this revival is so incredible that it would have been a crime for it to not make a Broadway transfer. The indoor version brings with it more intimacy and better lighting, scenic effects and sound design. And it has been carefully restaged for the new venue, with cast members roaming the aisles and in the balcony.
Though dated in 1960s countercultural folklore, “Hair” still maintains genuine political fervor and intense emotions. In addition to the joyful anthems like “Aquarius” and “I Got Life,” songs like “Let the Sunshine In” and “What a Piece of Work is Man” are desperate pleas for humanity to turn back and rediscover its primal greatness before it is too late.
Diane Paulus’ production is wisely simple, colorful, extremely well sung and absolutely powerful. But most important of all, it is authentic. The characters are treated as passionate, complicated human beings, not as one-dimensional hippies. There is a serene sensation of friendship and love among this young, gorgeous cast so strong that it radiates into the audience.
Will Swenson, as his animalistic bosom buddy Berger, perfectly captures the character’s childlike charisma and sexual playfulness. As Claude, the play’s conflicted, Hamlet-like protagonist, Gavin Creel (who replaces Jonathan Groff) brings vitality and animation but also highlights the character’s youthful insecurities. Unfortunately, we don’t have space to list every single gorgeous, hardworking member of the ensemble cast.