The ’60s are having their moment. Between the day-drinking-in-the-office on TV’s “Mad Men” and the retro-sounding tunes of female singers like Adele, it’s clear that the decade of such upheaval still has a grip on our imaginations.
So it comes as no surprise that the musical “Hair,” which originally came out in the ’60s, is back in vogue, with the Tony Award-winning revival playing at the Oriental Theatre this month.
The energetic musical follows a “tribe” of hippies as they experience life in New York City. But the vibrant costumes and exuberant musical numbers will make you feel like you landed in the middle of the Haight-Ashbury district, instead.
At the emotional heart of the story is Claude (Paris Remillard), torn between his parents’ expectations that he join the Vietnam War and his friends’ call to burn his draft card and engage in some good old-fashioned peace, love and understanding.
In the absence of a strong plotline, characters also touch on other important issues like racism, religion and unwed pregnancy.
The incredible music truly is the highlight of the show. Caren Lyn Tacket as Sheila and Phyre Hawkins as Dionne especially stand out for their strong voices. The entire cast shines on such recognizable hits as “Aquarius,” “Good Morning Starshine” and the lively title song. For added fun on the final number, “Let the Sun Shine In,” audience members flood the stage to sing and dance with the actors.
Audience interaction is a hallmark of this show, with characters like Berger (Steel Burkhardt) and Jeanie (Kacie Sheik), breaking the third wall and chatting with those in the seats. Other Tribe members run down the aisles, stand on seats and pass out invitations to a “Be-in” at the end of the first act.
Although the show could inspire interesting conversations with mature teens (many were seen in the audience) about social responsibility and the tension between different generations, the show really isn’t for families.
The entire cast appears nude at one point and take part in frank conversations about sexuality (one song is called “Sodomy”) and drug use. Most of the second half is Claude’s hallucination from a bad drug trip. And at least one scene makes liberal use of the f-word.
But if you’re looking for a true picture of the countercultural element of the 1960s, “Hair” provides it in spades. That picture clearly has drugs, sex and rock-and-roll at its center.