A celebration of life, a love letter to freedom and a passionate cry for hope and change, “Hair” features some of the greatest songs ever written for the stage. The musical broke new ground when it first opened in 1967 by defining the genre of “rock musical,” changing the face of musical theater for generations to come. In a two-day run at the Walton Arts Center on Feb. 22 and 23, “Hair” is a show not to be missed.
With a score including such enduring musical numbers as “Let the Sun Shine In,” “Aquarius,” “Hair” and “Good Morning Starshine,” “Hair” depicts the birth of a cultural movement in the 1960s and 1970s that changed America forever. The musical follows a group of hopeful, free-spirited young people who advocate a lifestyle of pacifism and free-love in a society riddled with intolerance and brutality during the Vietnam War. As they explore sexual identity, challenge racism, experiment with drugs and burn draft cards, the “tribe” in “Hair” creates an irresistible message of hope that continues to resonate with audiences 40 years later.
Diane Paulus, director of the Broadway revival gets emotional about the show saying: “One night, following a performance of the show in Central Park” — this was prior to the Broadway run — “a man in his 60s, wearing a business suit, sat on the stairs and cried,” she says. “One of the girls in the show went over to him, and he looked at her, tears streaming down his face, and said, ‘I was tear-gassed in Vietnam. But I got my arms, I got my heart, I got my life.’ He was interpolating the lyrics. That’s the power of ‘Hair’ now. What you see on stage is what was happening in the world in 1967-68. For many years, we didn’t have the courage or the tolerance or the interest to look back on that time period. It was such a divisive time. But 40 years later, things have changed. People who fought in the war or protested the war can now look back on it. They watch ‘Hair’ and really meditate on what it means to have been alive then. And then we get teenagers and college kids who look at “Hair” like it was written yesterday. It’s staggering to me.”
In addition to the message and aura, the merits of the show itself are apparent. “Hair” received eight Tony nominations and won the 2009 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical, the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album, along with scores of other awards and critical acclaim.
Paulus said “‘Hair’ is a show of affirmation of what it means to be alive, what it means to care and have passion, what it means to get beyond our cynicism.”
This is a play filled with amazing music and a moving story that speaks to everyone: Democrats and Republicans, veterans and antiwar activists, hippies and preppies, those who loved the ’60s and those who loathed the ’60s, young and old.