Monday, March 21, 2011

Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical (Revival)

The lovely lady D and I recently went to see Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. It was the 2009 revival of the original 1967 version with the same plot and great songs. Held at the beautiful Oriental Theater (now the Ford Center ) in Chicago with it's ornate decor and red velvety carpets and seats, we settled in for the performance. From the first verses of Aquarius we were taken back to the late 60's. The whole production was in total sync, funny in parts, dramatic and sad in others, all performed with intensity and high energy. The main characters Berger-Steel Burkhardt, Claude-Paris Remillard and Sheila-Caren Lyn Tackett were phenomenal as were the rest of the cast. I think the best parts were the interactions with the audience, at times the cast would run and sing up the aisles of the main floor and at one point gave out flowers to the audience-- it was very cool. At the end of final song, cast members urged everyone to come on stage and partake in singing and dancing to the extended finale which lasted at at least 15 minutes, it was a great time for everyone.

For those born after this era, let me give a little background which will help you appreciate and understand why this musical is a classic. 1967 was time when the Vietnam War was in full swing and  men between the ages 18-25 were drafted into the armed forces. The Vietnam War was unpopular and anti-war protests , many of the violent, occurred across the country. . It was a time of countercultures, drugs, sexual revolution, civil rights, gay rights,woman's rights, ecology, spirituality and self awareness surfacing and clashing with mainstream America and their social norms. It was a time of  rock music and artists like Jimmy Hendricks, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. It was a time when largest counterculture the"hippies"flourished in San Francisco, New York and other parts of the country. It was the Summer of Love.
The musical Hair was revolutionary , it was the first rock musical, it encapsulated the hippie counterculture and all of the above mentioned issues.  Of course the 2009 revival sends the same message as the original, but the impact is lessened due to changes in society and government. Although, a lot of the issues have not been resolved like, hunger, homelessness, drugs and others.

The story plot :
Claude, his best friend Berger and their roommate Shelia are part of a "tribe" of long-haired hippies living in New York City, politically motivated against the Vietnam War who struggle to balance their lives, loves, sexuality, personal identities, and rebellion against the war within the structure of  conservative parents and society. After Berger and other male tribe members protest the war by burning their draft cards, Claude must decide between following the tribes act of defiance or compromise his pacifism and perform his patriotic duty.

The songs of this musical represent the counter-culture and issues of the time. Sodomy, sex, sexual revolution, poverty, interracial relationships, drugs, discrimination, ecology, astrology, spiritual awareness, and anti-government/ authority, and war.

The Songs:
Aquarius- astrology, spiritual awareness
Sodomy- sex, sexual revolution
Colored Spade-racial discrimination
Ain't Got No-poverty, homelessness, family dysfunction
I Got Life -self awareness
Hair-self awareness
Hashish-drugs, spiritual awareness
Be-In, drugs, spiritual awareness
Walking in Space-spiritual/self awareness
Black Boys-interracial relationship
White Boys-interracial relationship
Going Down-anti-establishment(education)

All in all, Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical is something everyone should at least once in their lifetime.

Peace--Love--Flowers--Happiness to all.