The current Broadway revival of Hair had a somewhat tumultuous road to Broadway. Even after the show's phenomenally successful run last summer at the Delacorte Theater, former lead producer Elizabeth I. McCann reportedly had trouble capitalizing the show. So the Public Theater brought in Spring Awakening producers Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel to finish the job. The show's opening
night moved from March 5th to March 31st to
accommodate the shakeup. In a recent post, I wondered whether the show would retain its Central Park
luster amid the tumult.
It most certainly has. And then some. Most of the praise that I heaped upon the show in my review of its Central Park stint still stands. In fact, I found the show even more powerful the second time. Sure, the show works really well alfresco, but that doesn't mean it can't work just as well in a proscenium house. The Broadway production achieves a sense of clarity and dramatic
purpose even greater than that of the Central Park production, although
that may simply be a function of my becoming more familiar with the
Director Diane Paulus and choreographer Karole Armitage have teamed up to achieve a feat of theatrical alchemy, concocting a show of such raw passion and emotional honesty from Gerome Ragni and James Rado's unfocused and seemingly random book. The linchpin of the show's appeal lies in the seemingly endless joys of the Galt MacDermot score, paired with Rado and Ragni's colloquial, erudite, and often profound lyrics.
Another essential element to the current production's appeal is its talented cast. The frenetic Will Swenson thankfully returns as Berger, and he remains the sexy and energetic soul of the production. As much as I enjoyed Jonathan Groff as Claude, Gavin Creel brings a bit more gravitas and conflict to the role. But this is really one of those shows in which the ensemble work makes an essential contribution, and fortunately most of the cast seem to be focusing their efforts in support of the piece, rather than in personal showboating, although there were a few minor performers who seemed more intent on auditioning for their next role than in serving the present production.
Many people questioned Hair's commercial transfer: why would people pay more than $100 to see a show that they could have seen for free in the park? Um, because we don't all live in New York City, folks. And even if we did, we might not have had to time to get up at 3AM to stand in line for a ticket. Since the show began performances at the Hirschfeld Theater in March, its weekly grosses have risen steadily, as has the attendance percentage and the average ticket price. And it's the heavy favorite to win the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.
So, Hair seems to be triumphing over the naysayers. For me, it's the one unqualified artistic and commercial success of the season, at least as far as musicals go. And I urge every one of you out there who has a chance to see the show to do so at your earliest opportunity.