Hair in Central Park Through Aug. 31

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It’s easy to forget that the main plot of the pioneering, iconic rock musical Hair –which New York City’s Public Theater is staging free of charge at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park this month–has to do with the Vienam War and the draft.

The Public Theater’s free shows–tickets are required; two per person, beginning at 1:00 p.m. the day of the performance at the theater, or at noon at http://www.publictheater.org  — celebrates the 40th anniversary of the internationally acclaimed ensemble production that features 26 actors and singers. The new production includes some past Hair alumni.

Hair has many claims to fame, including being the first off-Broadway musical to transfer to Broadway. It officially opened at the Public Theater on Lafayette Street on October 17, 1967. After a six-week run, the show moved ton Broadway on April 29, 1968, where it ran for 1, 873 performances. Road versions played all over the country and throughout the world, and Hair was made into a film in 1979 directed by Milos (Amadeus , One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, et al .) Foreman.

The show is set in 1967, and follows the antics of a group of hippies. One of the men,  Claude, is drafted, and part of the free-flowing plot deals with what comes after he’s received his greetings from Uncle Sam.

I saw Hair on Broadway in 1969, and thought it was a hoot. I loved the music and the over-the-top anti-establishment humor. The production felt vibrantly alive,  terrifically irreverant,  and a slap in the face at our parents’ generation.

Does it stand up four decades later? “Sure, some of its act is a bit tired, especially the conjuring of an acid trip stretching over four numbers, ” Washington Post theater critic Peter Marks wrote in his review . “Still in the score by Galt MacDermot, James Rado and Gerome Ragni, there remain the electric tunes of a Broadway classic, of a style that has been emulated in productions down the years, from Godspell to Rent .”

Marks went on to call the show “a potent mix of exhilaration and nostalgia, ” and “something you’ll want to [see], even if it can never again be the type of seismic event it was back in the days of rage.”

The Central Park Public Theater Hair cast


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