I saw "Hair" 22 years ago in San Francisco and thought I remembered what it was about. Wasn't it about men letting their hair grow long, to show they weren't part of the establishment? No matter, the music, as I remembered it, was wonderful.
The music is wonderful. Still. Even though some of the voices in the 20th anniversary tour were far from wonderful.But the big surprise about "Hair," for me, was that hair is a small part of the play.
Remember the song, "Air?" ("Welcome sulphur dioxide . . . ") How about "I Believe in Love" and "I Got Life?" Remember the joy in the music and in the words, "I got my eyes . . . I got my toes . . . I got my TEETH?"
I guess I did realize it when I was 19. But it certainly struck me harder seeing "Hair" all these years later. This musical is about being young, healthy and whole - and not wanting to go to Vietnam to be maimed or killed.
The musical, composed by Galt McDermot with story and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni, opened in New York in 1967. So this is the 20th anniversary of the touring company, not of the opening.
Six months after it opened, a revised "Hair" opened on Broadway - minus most of the libretto. The music created a mood; the play was stronger with a more subtle plotline. "Hair" played well in the U.S., in France, in Japan, in dozens of countries.
And now it's back. But back in a different guise. This 20th anniversary tour tries to go beyond "Hair." The directors wanted to give us a feeling of what it was like to live in the '60s. They wanted a "tribal love-rock." A happening.
So the actors frisked about the stage before the play began. The pace of the play was speeded up; in some cases the lyrics were too fast to be understood.
Director Barry Singer chose to throw in a few extra jokes, too, and the audience laughed appreciatively at references to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. But for me, adding those jokes - as well as having policemen pretend to arrest the audience during intermission, after the nude scene - almost made the anniversary play into a parody of the real play.
In this version, obscenities were uttered more in jest than in anger - which somehow made them more obscene.
Basically this is a serious and moving play. Remember the lines from "Three-Five-Zero-Zero?" "Prisoners in Niggertown, it's a dirty little war." Those words don't jest.
Last complaint: Minor characters in the anniversary edition have more pleasing voices than some main characters. I wanted more solos by Carla Murray, who played Crissy and sang "Frank Mills," and by Lizz Hogue, who played Abe Lincoln in the "Abie Baby" number.
In spite of all that - and this is a real tribute to McDermot, Rado and Ragni - "Hair" triumphed at Kingsbury Hall.
The audience gave "Hair: The 20th" a standing ovation and some went on stage to dance with the troupe. I'm glad they loved it. I liked it a lot myself. The Tribal Love-Rock Musical was fun. But I'm hoping to be able to see the play again someday.