Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hair on Broadway! Does it melt your butter?

Good hair day! What took me so long? I first heard about this production when it ran last summer off-Broadway, at the outdoor theatre in Central Park. On opening night, near the end, clouds opened up and pissed down rain just as the cast began singing "Let the Sunshine In". I know this because I bumped into some random guy who saw it and said it was the most spiritual experience he'd ever had. I love that!

So what took me so long to get up to 45th street? It's funny how living in NYC, I often get numb to all the truly amazing stuff going on here. I've been feeling kind of down and despondent, so a musical was just the lift I needed. Big thanks to my friend AJ who swept into town and took Bam and me out on the town to see HAIR!

The cast was excellent. Will Swenson brings quirky fabulous, utterly uncivilized things to the role of sexy Berger. Then of course is the openly gay Gavin Creel, who makes a fabulous Claude even though for the life of me I'll never understand the whole Manchester, England song. Like, why? Of course we forgive him that one, and also for the fact that I think both these boys are supposed to be...teenagers?

Ok---quick side story---when I was at the equality march last weekend, the whole cast of HAIR actually went down to DC to march as well (the show went dark last Sunday--how awesome are they?) and along the march I filmed this group of drag queens from Richmond, Virginia, who were taking a break right right in front of the White House. One of them, in her made up face and heavy southern drawl, hollers to my camera, "Gavin Creel....from the cast of HAIR? HE MELTS MY BUTTER." The secret service agrees.

In the show, probably the most beautiful song (if not the most exuberant) for me is Shiela's (Caissie Levy) lament "Easy to be Hard":

How can people have no feelings
How can they ignore their friends
Easy to be proud
Easy to say no

And especially people
Who care about strangers
Who care about evil
And social injustice
Do you only
Care about the bleeding crowd?
How about a needing friend?
I need a friend

It's super strong and poignant, and she sings it about her boyfriend Berger who's kind of a hypocrite to the hippie cause. In the movie, I think (do I remember right?) she is pregnant and comes home and he rejects her and the pregnancy. Good motivation to sing! He's so shitty!

But in the play she is not pregnant. Instead,she comes back and gives Berger this gift of a yellow polyester shirt. He tosses it around, and ends up ripping the thing in half. Then she launches into "Easy to be Hard". Hey writer, give this girl some motivation! I'm unsure (help me out?) if this is the way the show was originally written, maybe it's done to make Berger look not so shitty---but the movie definitely upped the stakes to lead naturally, beautifully into the number. Busting your gut with a heart-wrenching showstopper just because he tore up the yellow poly/rayon blend? Not so much.

Otherwise I really enjoyed it. Half the time of course I had no idea what was happening onstage, and though it's not 1968 and there is no draft (or hippies), of course there are parallels with today's wars (will we ever learn?) and just--damn--the not wanting to fit in. It made me think of so many tangential things such as the bizarrely ironic fact that so many hippies ultimately turned into money-grubbing conservatives. And how if that odd leap continues to hold true, I am gonna be one frickin' rich asshole if I ever get old.

1 comment:

Tony said...

Hey Jesse -

Dating myself here, but when "Hair" first came out, I didn't get all the lyrics either. Perhaps their druggy free association was meant to confound the complacent.
I very much hope you become filthy rich, but if you ever turn into a conservative asshole, I'll personally roll the entire front yard of your mansion.
(In case urban apartment dwellers are not familiar with the term "roll your yard," it means festooning toilet paper from the branches of every tree and shrub in the yard. It's lots of fun: you toss rolls of TP as high as you can up into the trees and as it unrolls it hangs there forever, or until it rains and the soggy mess drops in disgusting lumps all over the lawn.)
Surely you've never done this...
But knowing you as I do, I'm positive I'll never have to violate the pristine lawns and gardens of your estate.