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NY Theater Reviews

Ph: Joan Marcus

MAKE LOVE NOT WAR

By MATT WINDMAN

It may not measure up completely to past performances, but anyone who hasn't seen Hair is urged to go.

Anyone who has not yet seen the Public Theater’s Tony-winning revival of the 1967 rock musical Hair is absolutely urged to buy tickets. Diane Paulus’ exuberant and physical production brilliantly evokes the passion of youths rebelling against the Vietnam War and a conformist and uncaring society.
 
When the entire cast gathers at the start of the show to sing “Aquarius,” it feels more like a mystical, religious invocation than a typical opening number.
 
The infamous nude scene at the close of the first act is performed uncensored. And in a cute touch, the audience is invited to join the cast onstage during curtain call and dance to the title song “Let the Sun Shine.”
 
But those who saw this production during its initial Broadway run, or even when it was presented in Central Park three summers ago as part of the Public’s Shakespeare in the Park season, will probably notice that it is no longer in the finest shape.  
 
The Broadway production closed exactly one year ago, after which it embarked on a national tour with a new cast. The set, having been physically altered so that it can be easily transferred to stages of varying sizes, looks comparatively makeshift in quality.
 
The sound design could be improved, and the score is being played way too slowly by the band.
 
There’s also no denying that it had a stronger cultural relevance and emotional impact when anti-George W. Bush fervor was at its peak and Obama was still running for office.
 
The current cast is mixed in quality. Kacie Sheik (Jeanie) and Darius Nichols (Hud) are excellent holdovers from the original Broadway company, whereas Kaitlin Kiyan (Crissy) robs the ballad “Frank Mills” of its elegant simplicity with “American Idol” style singing. 
 
As Berger, Steel Burkhardt captures the same crazed and animalistic spirit that made Will Swenson so captivating in the role. And Paris Remillard’s mature take on Claude presents the character as both upbeat and genuinely scared.