By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
The cast members, some appearing in their first professional show, nail it all vocally too. As the American theater's first popular sung-through musical, Hair is a demanding mini-opera that holds the record for the most chart hits from a Broadway show. Among them: "Age of Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In," recorded first by Little Anthony, then made an even bigger hit by the 5th Dimension; "I Got Life," covered by Nina Simone; "Where Do I Go" by Carla Thomas; "Hair" by the Cowsills; "Easy to Be Hard" by Three Dog Night; and "Good Morning Starshine" by Oliver. Hairsaw more than 700 recordings made from the score by 1970 (the show ran on Broadway until 1972). The Broadway cast album hit No. 1 and won a Grammy.
No Tonys for Hair, however. That year's committee of blue-hairs rejiggered the rules to keep the show from being nominated. The Neil Simon/Burt Bacharach/Hal David musical Promises, Promises, a safer choice, took home the prizes instead.
Hair may be twice as old as the actors performing in it now, but it's held up better than most shows its age. (Like, who's seen The Happy Time recently?) MacDermot's music has proven its staying power with endless reuses in films and on TV commercials. William Shatner crooned "Age of Aquarius" for a Priceline spot just recently. The title song has sold shampoo. "Let the Sunshine In" was a natural for window cleaner. And if the pharmaceutical peddlers haven't secured the rights to "Easy to Be Hard" for Cialis, they ought to immediately.
For some of us of a certain hoary age, Hair throbs with the anthems of our youth, glibby-glop-gloopies notwithstanding. Seeing a stage crowded with talented, soft-cheeked kids throwing their frizzed-out manes back, singing about "Harmony and understanding/Sympathy and trust abounding"...garsh, it reminds us who we once were and who we once wanted to be. In that way, Hair's a musical magical time machine transporting us back to a place where we were free to dream, where the moon was in the seventh house and we thought peace would guide the planets and love would steer the stars. But really, what the hell did we know?
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