Monday, May 11, 2009

Theater Review: Hair

Location: Al Hirschfeld Theatre, 302 West 45th Street, NY, NY

Website: Official Hair site

Starring: Gavin Creel, Will Swenson, Caissie Levy, Kacie Sheik, Bryce Ryness

My Review: It’s really hard to review a show like Hair since it has such a polarizing effect on people. There are those who love the songs, feed off the energy of the hyperactive cast, and relish the chaotic representation of a time they lived through or wish they hadn’t been born too late to experience. Then there are those who see Hair as a show about a bunch of dirty hippies and wonder where the linear story is. If you fall into the first group, you’ll love the revival of Hair currently on Broadway. If you fall into the second group, Mary Poppins is playing over at the New Amsterdam.

I absolutely loved Hair, end of story. I’m a part of the crowd who was born too late to experience the turbulent late 1960s, but that has absolutely no effect on my ability to love the show. The themes in Hair are just as relevant today as they were in 1967: A younger generation who resents the older generation? Check. Some people rage against a war they want no part of while others cling to their blind patriotism? Check. The youth of America worries about the future and attempts to numb themselves about their fear of the unknown? Check and check. Remove the bohemian clothes and update the slang, and the tribal community of Hair isn’t that different from the angry, scared, apprehensive society that exists right now.

The cast of Hair couldn’t be more spot on if we had time traveling capabilities and could go back to the ‘60s and get actual hippies. Their energy is infectious, as they leap and writhe about the stage, then dash through the audience, handing out daisies, imploring us to join their cause, and even sexually soliciting a lucky few (having an aisle seat, I was treated to one of the cast members thrusting his crotch in my face). How they keep this vigor going for the two and half hour run time, six days a week (twice a day on Saturdays and Sundays), is beyond me, but they somehow pull it off.

Gavin Creel as Claude, who is more or less the main character, shines as the heart and soul of the tribe. Not quite as manic as his friends, he still condemns his parents and his government for attempting to send him to Vietnam, but can’t quite bring himself to ceremoniously burn his draft card. Your heart can’t help but break a little when he questions “why I live and die.” Will Swenson is his best friend and fellow tribe member Berger, and the ultimate stand out in the cast. Berger is egotistical, inconsiderate, and a complete attention whore, yet he’s endearing in his earnestness to piss everyone off and stick it to the man. Swenson manages to present Berger as annoying, vulnerable, hilarious, and sexy all at once. It’s no surprise that both of these actors received Tony nominations for their performances.

This revival of Hair was first produced last summer as part of The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park offering, and I was devastated to have missed it. But having seen it in the more confined space of the Hirschfeld, as opposed to a vast outdoor theater, I think I’m glad I saw it where the energy was contained within a smaller space, where I couldn’t miss a thing and there were no outside distractions. Well, besides the occasional hippie crotch in my face, that is.

Bottom Line: Hair is a must-see for anyone who loves great theater or is in need of a jolt of energy. If you don’t leave the theater wanting to go thrift store shopping, smell of patchouli, and start smoking pot regularly, you may want to get your vital signs checked.


  1. I think that your review is spot on. I saw Hair with some coworkers and loved it! (I was not lucky enough to get a crouch in the face, so go you!) The energy is amazing, and like you said, the relevance is unquestionable.

    Hair is fantabulous times!

  2. Yeah, Meredith, there's nothing better than good crouch in the face. When people kneel down so they look all short...really gets my motor running. Grrr... :)