MANY of us who were children in the early 1970s and whose parents were the least bit hip grew up with the soundtrack to Hair on our turntables. we could sing songs like "Sodomy" long before we knew what the lyrics meant. For kids too young to have experienced the era first-hand, Hair's music linked us to history.
Written by Gerome Ragni and James Rado
Music by Galt MacDermot
Directed by Oded Salomy
At the Agassiz Theater
But in cynical 1989, when "classic rock" means music from the early days of MTV, when everyone from Bush and Quayle to the Undergraduate Council seems to act as if the 1960s never happened, is the spirit of Hair still viable? Can this hippie happening have any relevance for the none-too-rebellious youth of today?
Fortunately, the answer provided by last week's Agassiz theater production is a resounding yes. Granted, the events depicted in Gerome Ragni and James Rado's play are ancient history to us, but the same is true of Antigone and Hamlet (two plays to which Hair owes a debt). Galt MacDermot's score (including favorites like "Aquarius") was as fresh and lively as ever.
WHAT little plot Hair has centers around the question of whether head hippie Claude is more afraid of burning his draft card or of taking the path of least resistance and getting killed in Viet Nam. Meantime, the rest of his "tribe" tunes in turns on and drops out in an effort to free themselves from the hypocrisy of authority.
The members of the tribe are no wide-eyed flower children. Their cutting wit reveals them to be the original ironic generation--unlike their 1980s counterparts, their irony is not a hip pose but a weapon of self-defense. The tribe is no group of saints--its members can be as sexist, cowardly and mean-spirited as the elders they condemn--which makes them that much more human and their quest for values that much more necessary.
The hippies in the Agassiz's production of Hair were portrayed, democratically enough, by a racially and sexually mixed cast who get more or less equal time in the spotlight. Hair seems such a group effort that it would be unfair to single out any of the actors for praise. Except for a couple of fluffed notes, the singing was powerful, and Betty Ludaici's choreography provides some of the most electric dancing I've seen in four years of Harvard musicals.
The communal nature of the production and its effort to involve the audience turn Hair into a ritual celebration of the 1960s, designed to transport both cast and viewers back to that mythical time. When the irresistible force of the "Let the Sunshine In" finale pulled the audience onstage to dance with the hippies, the childhood link was forged again.