Last weekend I had the chance to see the musical Hair when it stopped here during it’s nation-wide tour. I honestly didn’t know much about it, only that the musical took place in the 60s and represented the hippie counterculture. My mom was excited; it was her time period we were going back to. While she was still quite young during those days, she remembers her older brother, my uncle, wearing bell bottoms and tie-dye and going to his fair share of protests and music festivals celebrating peace and love.
I learned quickly that the musical itself has a very loose story – one that’s more experienced than understood. It is about the hippie youth and what they stood for – peace, love, freedom – and didn’t stand for – war, segregation, hatred, violence. They were considered anti-American, yet, essentially, what they were preaching about wasn’t really bad. They were trying to save their country in the way they felt right – without guns and killing. In a way, they should be considered just as American as anyone else and that was greatly shown in the show.
The acting and singing was all fantastic, as expected. The stage very simple – a truck and light tresses for the actors to climb atop. The wardrobe vintage, the hair long. As a way to showcase the vitality and inclusiveness of the characters’ “tribe,” the actors were literally on top of the audience. They ran down the aisles, climbed atop seats, messed with audience members’ hair. It was interactive and fun. It brought the message that much closers. As a show, it was fantastic, but, in the end, I feel like I got more out of it than an entertaining night.
Halfway through I wondered if the message was lacking since we’re far from the late 60s. I still wonder what it must have been like to see the show when the time period reproduced was all around. When audience members dressed as those onstage, when in San Francisco, it probably just felt like an extension of the normal protests and goings on.
Upon the show being brought back to Broadway in 2008, James Rado, one of the original creators, wrote “It was a show about now when we did it. Now it’s a show about then – but it’s still about now.” It still felt relatable. Switch out the wars discussed, it’s still about the same thing. It’s about what’s important, and what’s not. It’s about defying censorship and questioning why violence and murder is okay, but nudity isn’t. It’s about the joy – and sometimes naivety – of being young and idealistic and only wanting what’s best in your mind. Ultimately, it’s still about peace, love and affection, over hatred and pain. And I loved that.
At the end of the show, after the curtain call, the actors brought audience members onstage to dance, much like in the original production. Anyone could go up and experience the music, the moment. Of course, I ran right up, storming up the stairs to join the cast onstage. And while I felt self conscious dancing in front of an entire theatre, I let the moment take me over, as the cast encored “Let the Sun Shine In.” And with closed eyes I let go and felt what they were trying to explain. That it’s okay to want what you want, that it’s okay to be naïve and hope for a peaceful, beautiful future. Because despite everything, it might still be possible.