My father never experimented with drugs back in the ’60’s. He chose to get high on politics and speaking out against the war instead. Last night, however, I watched him trip out for the very first time and it was, in a word, groovy. It wasn’t an acid trip or anything…more of a trip down memory lane and I was happy to take the journey with him.
The two of us caught the Broadway revival of “Hair,” the hippie-trippy musical currently melting faces at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, and it was an absolute mind-blowing experience on two levels. For me, a child of the ’80’s, it was a chance to see a musical I’d heard many songs from growing up. It was also a chance to see what I would say is the best cast I’ve possibly ever seen in a Broadway show. From the leads to the ensemble, I’ve never seen a cast sing and dance their asses off quite like this show (more on that later).
On a much deeper level though, this was the first time my father had seen “Hair” since he went with my mother on a date to see it some 40 years ago and he was floored. From the minute the curtain went up on “Aquarius,” he continually whispered in my ear explaining the importance of the show back in the day and taking me back to the time the show was set in throughout. When the cast burned their draft cards, my dad explained to me that “that’s how it really was” back in the day. When songs like “Black Boys” played or scenes in which the cast dropped their pants, my father explained how raunchy and controversial it was at the time. He also covered my eyes as a joke, but that’s neither here nor there.
During intermission, my dad opened up about how he met my mother, and shared stories on how he’d lost a close friend in Vietnam. All of these stories, I probably heard before, but never this poignant — never this personal. On that level, it was probably the best experience my dad and I have had together on Broadway — and trust me we’ve seen a lot. Moving on from the personal trip we shared, “Hair” is arguably the best show currently playing on Broadway. Staged to perfection by director Diane Paulus — who has the cast running up and down in the aisles, caressing audience members’ hair and asking them to dance or hug them, the entire production is up close and personal and in your face.
Some of the songs and content are dated, but it never once matters because of the infectious Gerome Ragni/James Rado tunes and authentic performances from the whole cast. If ever the Tony committee wanted to award a Best Ensemble Cast — this would be it. There’s not a weak link on stage.
It’s unfair to single out any one performer since they’re all top-notch but I’m going to anyway. Caissie Levy as Sheila, Will Swenson as Berger, Kacie Sheik as Jeanie, and especially Gavin Creel as Claude are phenomenal. Levy’s voice in particular is something to behold.
Look, I could go on about the production… the orchestra which is kickass, and the sets which are pretty cool, but you’ve read the rave reviews elsewhere. If you didn’t live through this all-important time, see the show to experience it. And if you’re like my dad, check it out so you can relive the past and share “The Stone Age” with your kids.