photo: Joan Marcus
It's been more than four decades since the self-described "American tribal love rock musical" Hair became an instant cultural sensation, so it's astounding that this new production (transferred from its run last Summer in Central Park and staged more like a happening than a traditional musical) feels so urgent and newly powerful. Director Diane Paulus doesn't condescend to the material and treat it as cute mostalgia; instead, the production seems guided by a deep respect for briefly-mainstreamed hippie sensibilities and tinged with an underlying sadness that the intervening years have so drastically changed our cultural values. The members of the talented cast (now including Gavin Creel, whose goofy-sweet charm and vulnerability make him an ideal Claude) effectively create a microcosm of a community rather than compete with one another for attention. This isn't a production where you are left to note how well this one sings "Easy To Be Hard" or "Aquarius", it's one where the larger purpose of the whole piece informs each song and vignette, and in which the final cumulative effect is as exhilarating as it is emotionally devastating. Vital, thrilling, unmissable.