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Let the sun shine... let the sun shine...

Cross posted from chickflick1979.blogspot.com, my thoughts on "Hair:"

This past weekend, on our trip to New York for Thanksgiving, my Mom took me to see the current Broadway production of Hair. She had been dying to see it every time we’d been in NY for the past two years, but I was indifferent. I mean, I always like to see everything on Broadway, so I wasn’t protesting, but it wasn’t the first thing on my list (Next to Normal has been first on my list for a while, but somehow I’m never in the right place at the right time to end up with tickets to it). So when we sat down, and the lights started to dim, there was Mom, excited like a child at the circus, and me, skeptical at best. And by the end of the first act, my skepticism was tempered, but not by much. The first half of the show starts out slow. Really slow. I mean, there’s something like 10 songs where not only is there nothing happening, but you also can’t really understand what they’re saying. Yet, there’s something charming about the show, even in it’s slow moments – I just hadn’t figured out what yet.

I was still hung up on waiting for something to happen. I wanted a character to break free from the tribe (what they call the chorus in this musical) and do something… or at least say something I could understand. I had a lot of trouble connecting with the characters, and while I was on board with the whole “this is a period piece about the 60s” thing, I was still having trouble putting it in historical context. Yeah, the costumer did a good job with the bell bottoms and the wigs; yeah, the songs sound great with the choral arrangements and 20 part harmonies; yeah, I was amazed by how much choreography the show entailed. But I still wanted to know what it was about. All of this confusion led to the following hilarious conversation with my mom during intermission:

Me: I don’t understand this play.
Mom: Well, they’re hippies.
Me: But what is it about?
Mom: It’s about them.
Me: But they don’t do anything.
Mom: Sure they do.
Me: They just sit around, get naked, smoke a bunch of weed, and sing silly songs.
Mom: That’s what the hippies did.
Me: Yes, but this is kinda boring. And I think maybe they should get jobs.
Mom: They’re protesting the war – and see, that guy, he just got drafted, so there is a plot. They can’t get jobs, they’re in high school.
Me: They’re not protesting anything, they’re just sitting around.
Mom: See, but that’s what the hippies did. They were disillusioned, and everyone thought they were losers.
Me: Well, they kind of are. And since I can’t understand what they’re saying, I’m inclined to think that these characters have no personality. I know that’s what the hippies did, but why am I watching it?
Mom: Because this play brought attention to a movement that nobody paid attention to.
Me: I get that too, but they still don’t do anything.
Mom: You’re really a square, you know that?

And so on. I promptly went home and looked up what the hell “square” means. According to Urbandictionary.com, a “square” (other than a lyric from West Side Story) is “a boring person” and “A person who is regarded as dull, rigidly conventional, and out of touch with current trends.” Hmmm.

In the second act, however, the action does finally pick up, when one member of the Tribe refuses to burn his draft card, leading to his inevitable demise – in many different ways. I will admit, once the actual plot got going, I was a lot more on board with the show. Plus, the kids finally organize some sort of protest, so they do something, and then I was really on board. (Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t the hippie movement itself that I was whining about in the first act, it was the fact that the action was really slow and nothing was happening for a good 45 minutes.) The stakes and the music get more intense in the second act, and by the time the chorus broke into “Let the sun shine in,” they had me. Their statement was made, and admittedly, watching the 20somethings in the audience, the ones who had won the lottery tickets, singing and dancing along, kind of took my breath away.

I had no idea this show had such rabid fans, and it reminded me of the type of connection we all felt to Rent when it first took the stage on Broadway. (And yes, I know, those kids need jobs too.) Upon thinking about it more, I realized that Hair has a similar message, and theater goers are connecting to a similar theme. The powerful last scene and song break of the show, followed by the joyful sing along with the audience joining the cast on stage were definitely the highlight of the show, and was a great way to leave us. I just wish it hadn’t taken them two hours to get there, and therein lies my biggest problem with this show.

If, when Hair premiered in 1968, it's purpose was really to shed light on the hippie movement, and convince mainstream American that these kids had a purpose and a mindset that they were trying to convey, then it really doesn't do a good job of that. With the way the action plays out, it seems to me that anyone already skeptical of the hippie movement would sit there for the first 45 minutes of the show and go, "See? This is what I'm saying. All these guys do is sit around smoking weed and getting naked. They're just complaining about shit all day." What the first half of the play seemed to do was kind of perpetuate the stereotype of the loser, lazy hippie kids. Until one of their own gets drafted, and they finally get it together to try to do something about it. But by the second act, you may have already lost half your audience.

Hopefully, they'll come back for that last song, though. Because seriously - after all is said and done, after all the crap I sat through in the first half, that haunting song break at the end is what stuck with me. The crescendo as the chorus steps into the song, the image as everyone comes together on stage, the familiar melody that starts to fill the theater - that's what I was left with at the end of this show.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:07 pm (UTC)
So I saw this post and all I could think was, "Hey, I wonder if she was in the same audience as Lea Michele." Because Lea went to see Hair on Friday.
Dec. 1st, 2009 03:30 am (UTC)
I went on Saturday, you crazy groupie! :)
Dec. 1st, 2009 03:17 am (UTC)
I am one of those crazycrazycrazy Hair fangirl (the 20 somethings who won lotto? = me. Except that I suck at winning lotto &so do standing room usually, hah.) and I'm SO glad the show&the tribe ended up winning you over. I could go on about this show for days but. Gah. Love.
Dec. 1st, 2009 03:32 am (UTC)
No, please do go on! It did end up winning me over, but I still can't really put my finger on it - what is it about this show that people are connecting with?

I never win the lotteries either.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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