If you pull out your embroidered jeans, tie-dyed shirt and love beads from your days as a flower child and wear them to the theatre, Hair director Bob Harbin will give you the chance to stand and make the peace sign to the rest of the audience during his curtain talk.
But what if your experience of the 1960s was more like Mad Men? Or you first heard “Good Morning, Starshine” when Bob sang it to you on Sesame Street? Or you hadn’t even been born yet when this rock musical opened on Broadway in 1968 as a contemporary piece? Or your parents hadn’t even been born yet?
I bet you will still find something about the BobDirex production of Hair that resonates with you.
For one thing, it has great music sung by a large and endearing mix of people who all have vibrant and sometimes jaw-droppingly powerful voices. The leads are all good but so is the supporting cast. Craig Underwood, for just one example, is hilarious as an earnest amateur anthropologist in drag asking the kids why they do what they do, but an extra treat from his portrayal comes when he holds one high note for what must be a record-breaking amount of time.
Also, the show is such a rich mess of still-relevant issues and still-interesting cultural and historical references that it is almost too much to absorb in just in one viewing. From saving the environment to exploring non-Christian religions to crushing on Mick Jagger, there is something for almost everyone.
I expected more of a story. There is one, about a young hippie named Claude (Anthony Snitker) and his friends (aka his tribe) and his struggle over whether or not to burn his military draft card, but you only get glimpses of it. Normally I would be disappointed by the fragmented quality of the storytelling but in this show it somehow works. Paradoxically, it serves to show both the exciting energy of that time period and the fact that the flower children, though passionate about raising consciousness and saving the world, were also human individuals, some more mature than others.
Individual portrayals that I was particularly drawn to include Jeanie, a pregnant girl given a Mary Magdalene-like earthy wisdom by Erin Cohenour, and Sheila, a girl that Claire Wilcher portrays as successful at organizing protests but less successful at love. When Wilcher sings about Berger (whom Lincoln Slentz portrays as both sexy and churlish) rejecting her in “Easy To Be Hard,” you know Sheila would understand about all the times you’ve been dismissed or overlooked by lovers, too.
Speaking of maturity, there is a lot of mature content in this show. Never mind the “f” word, I had to look up one of the words in the “Sodomy” song. I thought I had seen all of the positions in the Kama Sutra before this. Apparently not.
On the other hand, the famous nudity is so brief and so darkly lit that I don’t think I would have even noticed it if I hadn’t been looking for it. While everyone else is undressing in the dark, Claude (Anthony Snitker) is singing beautifully in his jeans in a tight, bright spotlight, so that’s where your eye goes.
Your ear may be distracted, too. I went to opening night and the noise from the Rathskeller’s Biergarten next door was so loud I could barely hear the curtain talk. Quiet moments in Hair that should have been poignant or at least ruminative were ruined by whoever was playing on the Biergarten’s outdoor stage. I went back for the Hair matinee on Sunday and it was like experiencing a different show because the Rathskeller stage was silent until 5:30. On Sunday, the ending of Hair was so powerful that the audience sat stunned until the tribe came out to take their bows. Then we all leapt to our feet to applaud. Opt for the Sunday matinees of Hair if you can. And after the show, eat somewhere else besides the Rathskeller.