This review of the musical Hair performed at the Cultural Arts Playhouse was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 2 (2012) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Hair: The American Love-Rock Musical
Cultural Arts Playhouse (625 Old Country Road, Plainview, NY)
Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical is a rock musical with a book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni and music by Galt MacDermot. It originally debuted in October, 1967 at Joseph Papp's Public Theater, subsequently had a 45-performance run at The Cheetah, a midtown Manhattan discotheque, and opened at the Biltmore Theater in April, 1968 for a Broadway run of 1,750 performances. There was a Broadway revival of Hair in 1977 that ran for only 43 performances but on March 31, 2009, another Broadway revival won the Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for best revival of a musical.
The story is about Claude, a Polish boy from Flushing, Queens, who speaks with a fake British accent (claiming he is from Manchester, England) and his dilemma in deciding whether to burn his draft card, as his friends have urged him to do, or to report for duty and fight as a soldier in Vietnam. Claude eventually decides to serve his country and, of course, dies. That's basically the story, except that in-between, all the members of his Tribe are hanging out, getting high, sleeping with each other, remaining unemployed, mooching off their parents, making fun of curious but supportive outsiders, demonstrating against the Vietnam War and acting as irresponsible, immature, not-particularly enlightened young people who have absolutely no idea what it took to fight for and defend the freedoms we enjoy in this country today.
If you like Hair and the musical numbers in it, then you will be very pleased with this production. It has an excellent cast with enormous talent. Taneisha Corbin and Kyle Petty were both very impressive in the various roles they played with Taneisha shining through vocally in Aquarius and Kyle Petty hitting a home run singing Colored Spade. Ashley Nicastro was also a stand-out singing Easy To Be Hard. I have never been a fan of most of the songs in this musical and I have no intention of ever owning the soundtrack. Still, there are those few numbers people associate with this musical that are always audience pleasers. Specifically, Aquarius, Hair, Good Morning Starshine, The Flesh Failures (Let The Sun Shine In), Easy To Be Hard and I might add What A Piece Of Work Is Man to the list. The rest of the numbers do nothing for me and are quite forgettable.
The highly controversial nude scene has been removed from the end of Act 1, Claude and Berger do not kiss in this production and contemporary underwear is sometimes revealed in place of the traditional loincloth. Perhaps the morality of this musical was shocking to audiences who first saw it in the late 1960s as was the novelty of seeing hippies congregating on stage doing all the things they were probably doing on the street and in parks. Perhaps the modern day equivalent would be the Occupy Movement, which has fewer drugs and ill-defined goals.
It is hard to single out individual actors since so many of them have talent but Brooke Grossman, who played Marjorie, is clearly headed for stardom and a long-term career in the arts and Michael Marmann, who was Woof in this production, continues to impress me as a extremely talented actor with great potential.
Hair runs at the Cultural Arts Playhouse through August 5, 2012 (Friday & Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 7:00 p.m.) Tickets cost $20.00 if purchased in advance and $25.00 if bought at the door. For more information, visit http://www.culturalartsplayhouse.com/