With this production, Third Eye Repertory accomplishes what a four-year run on Broadway couldn't: establishing Hair as one of the all-time great American musicals. A classic should stand the test of time, and the overlooked film version of Hair, along with a failed Broadway revival in 1977, raised questions that the musical's timeliness - so vital to its success in the '60s - could be its own worst enemy. Third Eye Repertory lays any doubts to rest with an exuberant, authentic, and marvelous production. This is one of the most satisfying musicals mounted on any New York stage in a while, and a remarkable achievement for a three-year-old Off-Off-Broadway troupe.
At the heart of every great musical is a great score, and Hair has one: a euphonious assemblage of ballads, rock songs, anthems and celebrations with lyrics that are at once ingenious, poignant, shocking, prophetic, and poetic. Both the soloists and the ensemble display exceptional talent and vigor in the musical numbers, and the choreography by Ovi Vargas and Meredith Charles is original and delightful.
Third Eye's charismatic cast - most of whom probably were born after Hair debuted on Broadway in 1968 - captures the look and spirit of a hippie "tribe" perfectly. Director Shawn Rozsa has elicited extraordinary ensemble work from his performers. Their interaction and deportment are so natural, they truly seem like flower children who are looking out for one another, not just like East Village kids who think retro fashions are cool. Nanci Moy's costumes and Keven Lock's imaginatively painted, platformed set contribute to the captivating sensory experience.
By praising individual performers and scenes in Hair risks shortchanging the deserving folks who are not mentioned. Suffice it to say these are just some of the memorable things in the show: a deft rendition of the Sondheimesque "Ain't Got No" reprise ... a discreet, inventive reworking of the infamous nude scene ... the imposing voice and presence of Kevin Wilson, who lords over "Colored Spade" and "Abie Baby," two hilarious paeans to black pride that contain the most politically incorrect sentiments ever set to music ... Jimmy Aquino's portrayal of the perpetually stoned and sexually confused Woof, which is amusing right up until its touching final moments ... the jubilant staging of "Good Morning Starshine," which convinces you these hippies adore each other ... and a heartbreaking finale that makes as profound an anti-war statement as any drama.
As long as the play's social messages are conveyed as effectively
as they are here - and its passion rendered so joyously - Hair
should never seem dated. Bravo to all involved with Third Eye's
production for a consummate piece of entertainment.
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Copyright 1998 Adrienne Onofri