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The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical: New Tribe – Great HAIR!

May 25, 2010 - by Griffin Miller

For baby boomers, the 2008 production of Hair at Central Park’s Delacorte Theatre was one of those seminal retro experiences: a Zen-like then-and-now laced with nostalgia and the compulsion to unearth long-buried appliquéd bell-bottoms and fringed suede vests. It was also a sliver of their past to share with their kids, grandkids, or whomever was sitting next to them in the open-air venue that was, for the moment, an “Age of Aquarius” time machine.  
        
Happily, once that moment passed, the show had already proven itself way too wonderful to relegate to the Public Theater’s summer archives. Having been brought to life by director Diane Paulus, choreographer Karole Armitage and scenic designer Scott Pask, it was announced that the musical revival would transfer to Broadway the following spring.

Nevertheless, moving the show to an indoor venue meant restructuring the show, a challenge Paulus and Pask embraced to the max. When the smoke cleared, it was as if the hippies from Central Park hopped on a bus (a Love Bus, naturally -- think Peter Max) and drove to the Hirschfeld Theatre where they staged a take-over -- and picked up a 2009 Tony for Best Musical Revival along the way.

Hair’s storyline follows a group of young people (the Tribe), who embody the “love-peace-protest-counterculture” gestalt that swept the U.S. during the Vietnam War, while orbiting the character of Claude Hooper Bukowski: a Tribe leader who ends up fighting the Viet Cong. And should you question the show’s youth-oriented potency in the super-sized techno era known as “today,” I suggest you try on this Claude quote for size: “It’s the age of electronic dinosaurs and cybernetic Indians, the age where it’s more fun than ever to be young.”

Fast-forward to March 2010 (Hair celebrated its one-year anniversary on Broadway on March 31st) and another take-over, this time in the form of the completely new cast/Tribe.

According to the scroll of online feedback, the Broadway newbies more than live up to their predecessors. To begin with, the company now includes a couple of American Idol vets: Ace Young (season seven) as Berger and Diana DeGarmo, the season three runner-up, as Sheila. DeGarmo, incidentally, rocked last-season in Off-Broadway’s The Toxic Avenger alongside Jason Wooten, who plays Woof. Jeannette Bayardelle (The Color Purple on Broadway) is Dionne; Vanessa Ray (As the World Turns) is Crissy; Wallace Smith (The Lion King on Broadway) plays Hud; and Annaleigh Ashford (Wicked; Legally Blonde) is Jeanie. And in the pivotal role of Claude: Canadian pop star Kyle Riabko.

For the uninitiated, Hair shattered the Broadway mold with in-your-face songs and ballads featuring lyrics that didn’t rhyme and subjects that were beyond taboo. Not surprisingly, the score grabbed and totally spoke to young theatergoers. From “Aquarius” and “I Got Life” to “Hare Krishna,” “Black Boys/White Boys” and “Good Morning Starshine,” the score by Galt MacDermot (music) and Gerome Ragni & James Rado (book and lyrics) has endured -- and paved the way for future generations of rock musicals from Jesus Christ Superstar to American Idiot.

As for the current production, audience members can still make their Broadway stage debuts after the performance (everyone’s invited up on stage to sing, dance and party with the cast), only now every party is recorded so that participants have the extremely cool option of going to www.HairBroadway.com, checking out their “eParty,” tagging themselves, and sharing their “Let the Sun Shine In” moment with friends and family via email, Facebook and/or Twitter.

“Beads Flowers Freedom Happiness” -- Cyberspace!

HAIR: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical is playing at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, 302 W. 45th St. For reservations call 212-239-6200 or click here

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