The year was 1968. 

16,592 American soldiers lost their lives in Vietnam, the greatest number of 
casualties for any year of the war.  At home, assassins’ bullets killed Bobby 
Kennedy and Martin Luther King.  10,000 or more enraged Americans 
protested the Vietnam War outside the Democratic convention in Chicago, 
leading to hundreds of arrests and police-inflicted injuries.

On Broadway, the Tony winning musicals were the bubbly Promises, Promises, 
the nostalgic George M, the charming Dear World, the historical 1776, and the 
bawdy Canterbury Tales.

Clearly there was a disconnect in 1968 between the real world and the 
Broadway musical.  With one exception—Hair, nominated for two Tonys and 
losing both. Only Hair, with its young cast of war-protesting, love-making, pot-
smoking real-life-living Americans depicted on stage what was happening off. 
And it revolutionized Broadway.

Now, nearly 40 years later, Hair is back, in an exciting new staging at the Met 
Theater, with a cast of 28 young performers who weren’t even born until 
fifteen to twenty year after Hair debuted. The show might seem a quaint 
nostalgic period piece, if not for the real world of 2007, where once again 
America is involved in an unpopular war abroad, where once again young 
Americans are losing their lives.

There is one big difference, however.  In 1968 there was the draft.  In 1968 
every young man was in danger of being sent off to kill and be killed, and that 
is the reality which Hair reflected.

Thanks to the original Broadway producer, Michael Butler, Angelinos can now 
either revisit that tumultuous time in American history, or discover it for the first 
time, in Butler’s excellent revival directed with verve and imagination by Bo 
Crowell, who also choreographed its period perfect, arms swaying in the air 
dance numbers, which transform the stage into a 1960s love-in.

What little book Hair possesses revolves around Claude, who faces a life-
altering decision. To burn (his draft card), or not to burn.  The rest of the show is 
a non-stop succession of now famous songs (by Galt MacDermot, Gerome 
Ragni, and James Rado) which include Aquarius, Donna, I Got Life, Easy to be 
Hard, Where do I Go?, Good Morning Starshine, Let the Sunshine In, and of 
course, Hair.  These are performed by an energetic and talented (and mostly 
bare-footed) young cast, headed by James Barry as Claude, Lee Ferris as 
Berger, and Johanna Unger as Sheila.

Some of the highlights of Crowell’s imaginative staging include a prayerful 
Sodomy, a gas-masked character suddenly emerging from an onstage 
manhole, a choir director leading a hymn to LSD, a US soldier getting high after 
a bunch of Hari Krishnas offer him pot, a succession of male characters burning 
their draft cards in a large metal trash can, a musical number lit only by black 
light and flashlights, and Claude’s bizarre LSD trip, which takes up most of Act 
2. The latter features Indians vs. white men, a black female Abe Lincoln, Clark 
Gable and Scarlet O’Hara, a slim blonde Aretha Franklin, General Custer, 
Vietnamese monks, Catholic nuns, Ku Klux Klanners, and a drunken Calvin 
Coolidge.  That’s some acid trip!  Oh, and there’s also the infamous Act 1 finale 
with nearly the entire cast stripping down to their birthday suits.

I have to admit to Hair being one of my least favorite musicals. I much prefer 
shows with a stronger book/dialog/story line to follow, I’m not a huge fan of 
MacDermot’s music, and the 2nd act drug trip goes on way too long for me.

That being said, this 40th anniversary production is about as good as it gets, 
from its dynamic leads Barry and Ferris to its huge and hugely talented 
ensemble.  Barry especially, with his wide-eyed boyish good looks and strong 
voice, captures the audience’s sympathies immediately. Among the 
supporting cast, standouts include Jordan Segal, who delights as a middle-
aged female tourist (named Margaret Mead); long-haired Benjamin Ricci as 
Woof (the one with a crush on Mick Jagger) who leads the ode to Sodomy; 
Trance Thompson as a soulful Woof; Joanna Anderson, who lends her wispy 
voice to the amusing Frank Mills; and big voiced Zoe Hall and Clifford Banagale 
(a petite charmer with a gorgeous high tenor) singing What a Piece of Work is 

The band, led by musical director Christian Nesmith, is sensational. Lena 
Garcia has designed a multilevel Central Park set, including bridge and tunnel, 
and manhole. Dawn Worrall and Rachel Krishna Anderson’s costumes (oh 
those granny dresses!) are straight out of the sixties.  S&W’s lighting adds 
greatly to the mood, especially in the drug trip and black light sequences.

Whether Hair is a nostalgic visit to your youth (as was the case for most of the 
opening night gala audience) or a visit to your parent’s or grandparent’s 
younger days, this production captures the energy and passion and 
excitement of the late 1960s, and despite my caveats about the work itself, it 
is well worth seeing.

The Cast of Hair:  Amber Allen, Joanna Anderson, Rachel Anderson, Clifford 
Banagle, James Barry, Tim Brown, Bianca Caruso, Lee Ferris, Zoe Hall, Noah 
Jordan, Rebekah Kujawsky, Circe Link, Ian Madeira, Sara Mann, Annette 
Moore, Gaby Moreno, Suzanne Nichols, Stephen Nolly, Kevin Pierce, Erin 
Rettino, Benjamin Ricci, Sarah Schweppe, Jordan Segal, Trance Thompson, 
Johanna Unger, Felicia Walker, Dawn Worrall and Nataly Wright.

The MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Av., Hollywood.

–Steven Stanley
September 15, 2007

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