Book and Lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado. Music by Galt MacDermot. Directed by Diane Paulus. Al Hirschfeld Theater.
A chorus of disappointed dissenters have harshed the buzz of the first-night reviews, which had most critics enthusiastically grooving on this exuberant revival of the Public's 1968 hippie classic, transferred from last year's successful run in Central Park. But while the naysayers' objections--the show is too dated, too loud, too slick, etc.--have dragged the grade down to a low "A-" (it went as low as B+ for a while), the fact is that the majority of critics love this show. They don't just applaud Diane Paulus' touchy-feely production, Karole Armitage's athletic choreography, and the attractive young cast--they're positively over the moon, and in some cases almost surprised to be so, about the pleasures of the hit-packed original score.
New York Post A+
(Elizabeth Vincentelli) I have zero nostalgia for the 1960s, but I love this Hair...Director Paulus, scenic designer Scott Pask and choreographer Karole Armitage have completely appropriated their new surroundings. The set has gained in depth and height, and the actors regularly bound into the orchestra and boxes...It's a tall order for any troupe, especially since more than a dozen actors get distinctive solos. This "Hair" bench has great depth. Some stick out, of course -- Swenson, Gavin Creel as Claude, Andrew Kober as Margaret Mead, Allison Case as Crissy -- but the musical's singular glory lies in the generosity with which it allows so many to shine..."Hair" is a musical for the ages because it's a musical for the now.
Associated Press A+
(Michael Kuchwara) Hair, the legendary 1960s American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, has made the jump from a summer Central Park engagement to Broadway with all its exuberance intact — and more. If you want to know why this joyous revival, which opened Tuesday at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, is so successful, you need not look any farther than the show's first-act finale. No, not its brief display of nudity, but what is happening around it.
AM New York A+
(Matt Windman) Ever dream of being a dancer on Broadway? Your day has finally arrived. Seriously. In the finale of the Broadway’s exuberant revival of “Hair,” the audience is invited to dance with the entire cast onstage. It is a communal celebratory conclusion to a theatrical experience you will not soon forget.
(David Rooney) With its alfresco setting and the penetrating echoes of its countercultural themes during an election year in which political disenchantment became endemic, the Public Theater's revival of "Hair" last summer in Central Park was a unique experience. So shifting it indoors could only dim the thrill, right? Wrong. The enhanced production now at the Al Hirschfeld is sharper, fuller and even more emotionally charged. Director Diane Paulus and her prodigiously talented cast connect with the material in ways that cut right to the 1967 rock musical's heart, generating tremendous energy that radiates to the rafters.
Time Out NY A
(David Cote) The Public Theater’s raucous, joyous revival of the Hair has returned in triumph, and attendance will surely lead to a collective contact high. If anything, the transfer indoors produces more heat than last summer in the open-air Delacorte. The walls fairly shudder with Galt MacDermot’s polymorphously perverse rock score, and the stage gets a thorough pounding from the cast’s nonstop dancing, stomping and sprawling. Directed with tireless inventiveness and intensity by Diane Paulus and groovily choreographed by Karole Armitage, Hair speaks to a new generation faced with unpopular wars and a cynical society.
Hollywood Reporter A
(Frank Scheck) Any doubts that the revival of "Hair" that appeared last year in Central Park would lose something in the rarefied indoor confines of a Broadway theater can be immediately put to rest. If anything, the production has even more of a visceral impact at the Al Hirschfeld, where its youthful ensemble puts out so much blazing energy it's no wonder that half the audience feels compelled to join them onstage for the joyous bacchanalian finale.
American Theater Web A
(Andy Propst) Diane Paulus' revival of Hair, seen last summer at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, burst onto Broadway last night at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, and much like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, the production teems with vibrancy and heart so genuine that it seems almost to have been minted during the turbulent days of war protests and be-ins... Claude's fate, ultimately, delivers an almost overwhelming blow to theatergoers during the final moments of Hair thanks to Paulus' immaculate, and sometimes nearly infinitesimal, tweaks to her staging from just under a year ago. Not only are audiences able to understand and feel the ways in which the character is being torn by both his upbringing and his conscience, but also his innate sensitivity. Creel beautifully communicates Claude's need for connection, but inability to achieve it; the young man's fascination with the iconoclastic Berger (once again played with winning devil-may-care sensuality by Will Swenson) borders on homoerotic, even when coupled with his fascination for Berger's sometimes partner, the trust-fund protester Sheila (deftly rendered by Caissie Levy). Claude's involvement in this triangle contrasts marvelously with his coolness toward Jeanie (the goofily charming Kacie Sheik), who dotes incessantly on him.
The New York Times A
(Ben Brantley) They’re tearing down the house in the production that opened on Tuesday night at the Al Hirschfeld Theater. And any theatergoer with a pulse will find it hard to resist their invitation to join the demolition crew. This emotionally rich revival of “The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical” from 1967 delivers what Broadway otherwise hasn’t felt this season: the intense, unadulterated joy and anguish of that bi-polar state called youth... Ms. Paulus and her creative team have worked hard at their seamless spontaneity. Karole Armitage’s happy hippie choreography, with its group gropes and mass writhing, looks as if it’s being invented on the spot. But there’s intelligent form within the seeming formlessness. And the whole production has been shaped in ways that find symmetry — and complexity — in a show that people tend to remember as a feel-good free-for-all.
USA Today A
(Elysa Gardner) What director Diane Paulus and her flawless cast have achieved is a testament to the indomitability and transience of youth, with all the blissful exuberance and aching poignance that entails... Inside the Hirshfeld, Paulus and crew have kicked down the fourth wall and gleefully stomped all over it. The hippies populating this "American Tribal Love-Rock Musical" dance and frolic in the aisles, inviting audience members to join them. Flowers are distributed, hugs offered. At a recent preview, one tribe member escorted a woman who had wandered in late after intermission back to her seat. As a result, the show feels even more immediate and, well, communal than it did in the open air. There's no escaping these wild children and their unbridled lust for life, and no wanting to.
(Jeremy Gerard) There was nothing like Hair when it opened on Broadway in April 1968, and there’s nothing like the revival that opened last night at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. Hair was then and is now the most exciting new show in town, not so much a breath of spring air as a jolt of adrenaline... Hair, for all its references to hippies, Vietnam, free love and the revolution, feels utterly of the moment in its exuberance, its power to involve and, in Diane Paulus’s entrancing production, to move us.
(David Sheward) After a run last summer in Central Park, this Public Theater revival has moved indoors, and it looks like the hippies will be grooving there for a long time. In the park, the show was a combination picnic and rock concert, with audiences digging the sweet pop sounds and the energy of the attractive young cast. On Broadway, Diane Paulus' grab-bag staging takes on a more forceful narrative drive. Scott Pask replaces his sylvan set with a Peter Max–inspired crash pad, illuminated by Kevin Adams' psychedelic lighting. Michael McDonald's costumes ground us in the colorful period.
Curtain Up A
(Elyse Sommer) It's rocked into the Hirschfield Theater with all the magic and energy of the Central Park production intact...and then some. The new members of The Tribe couldn't be better...Director Diane Paulus has actually managed to heighten the show's emotional punch and bring the feel of an exuberant outdoor festival to the Hirschfield's conventional proscenium stage. From its fabulous and frantic "Aquarius" opening to the devastating finale that quickly morphs into an exuberant, celebratory onstage dance party, this is the most buoyant and audience involving musical on Broadway...The election of Barack Obama between the Park and this production is a hopeful sign that Hair did succeed, at least to some extent, in being wakeup call.
(Linda Winer) Sweet, raucous and powerful...Yes, the exuberant revival oversells itself in the first act and, more often than we'd like to admit, looks a bit like a flower-power commercial for air freshener. But the Public Theater's production of its '60s "American Tribal Love-Rock Musical" grows again into an important, lovable, achingly timely piece about the horrors and the marvels, the burdens and the wild fun of young social change. Despite all that is different since 1967 - not to mention all that's different from pre-election August - the show finds a modern pulse of fury and hope without betraying the specifics of a period piece about Vietnam and all flavors of liberation. The big cast has been directed with enormous joy and care by Diane Paulus and choreographed by Karole Armitage to have the tribe seem to be making things up on the spot...The real revelation is the subtle, shrewd, meticulous craftsmanship of this show.
(Bryan Scott Lipton) in the remarkably sure hands of director Diane Paulus and a committed cast of young Broadway talent, the landmark 1967 work not only retains its political and social relevance, but remains a remarkably joyous and occasionally heartbreaking piece of theater. The result is the year's best Broadway musical revival.
NY Daily News A-
(Joe Dziemanowicz) The production has been tweaked and is tighter and brighter in its new home...Loose intimacy is key to the show. Diane Paulus' exuberant staging lets it all hang out, and Karole Armitage's choreography is colorfully kinetic...As an anti-establishment revue, this creation...has been declawed by time and cultural tides - it's as edgy as "Cats." But as a smile-inducing celebration of life and freedom, it's highly communicable.
Edge New York A-
(Steve Weinstein) There will be those who would wish to read into the current revival of Hair relevance for today: an unpopular war; economic, political and social turmoil; an anti-Establishment mood. To which I say: Fuggadaboutit. The reasons why this show works so beautifully are pretty much the same as for the original production: a terrific, energetic young ensemble cast; imaginative choreography and direction that immediately breaks down the fourth wall and takes over the entire theater; and above all, a deathless score. As someone who saw the original 1967 production (in 1969), I admit to walking into the Al Hirschfeld Theater full of trepidation that the show that so affected me when I was young (very young, thank you!) wouldn’t have aged well...The great music, performed by an onstage ensemble, just keeps coming at you, until even the squarest codger (like the dude sitting next to me) succumbs to the spirit.
Bergen Record B+
(Robert Feldberg) Might not have the power to shock or to liberate that it did 41 years ago, but the exuberant revival of the iconic rock musical gives Broadway a welcome jolt of energy. It’s also lots of fun...Giving fresh life to nostalgia isn’t easy, but director Diane Paulus and choreographer Karole Armitage have done a masterful job, creating a constant flow of vitality that gives the sense of being transported back to the world of the original, 1968 Broadway production.
New York B
(Dan Kois) For the most part, Hair has made the transfer from Central Park with its high spirits intact. But during the famous mass-nudity moment, my companion noticed a lack of hair that helped crystallize what feels just a little off-kilter about this production: “I didn’t think,” she whispered, “that hippies had Brazilians.” Yeah, it’s skeezy to judge a musical by its pubic hair. But those cultivated landing strips are emblematic of Hair’s improbably gorgeous, irrepressibly sunshiny cast...I don’t mean to suggest that Hair’s bouncy young cast members are insincere; everything about their wide-eyed performances suggests they’ve bought into the show’s vibe in a big way...With 40 songs, many of them disposable, and a wafer-thin book, Hair is a revue, not a musical. But director Diane Paulus smartly deploys her exuberant cast all over the Hirschfeld.
(Martin Denton) Celebration is an important part of Hair, and that's the element that director Diane Paulus has most tapped into in this production...The show flies by and it's without a doubt a crowd-pleaser. But what, I asked myself, is finally the point of this production of Hair? People younger than me even by a few years never knew a military draft in this country; there's nothing remotely shocking or surprising about the sex, drugs, rock & roll, bad language, nudity, or funky hairdos and far-out costumes...[Hair] really was revolutionary then. I'd sure love to see something really revolutionary on Broadway now.
Wall Street Journal C+
(Terry Teachout) The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park revival of "Hair" has moved to Broadway, restaged and recast but identical in spirit to the outdoor version that I saw in Central Park last August. The direction and choreography, by Diane Paulus and Karole Armitage, are as festive as ever, and the onstage band is still lava-hot, especially Bernard Purdie on drums. The show itself, alas, is also unchanged: The first act is lively but smug, the second act a hopelessly incoherent mess, and Galt MacDermot's once-revolutionary music now sounds like a medley of moldering AM-radio promos. As before, everyone in the cast strips, some to better effect than others. Senescent dopers need not hesitate, but everyone else should approach "Hair" with extreme caution.
New Yorker C+
(Hilton Als) I didn’t expect to take such a dyspeptic view of the show, and I was saddened by my response. After all, I enjoyed Paulus’s version of the musical when I saw it last summer in Central Park, where the sound of city traffic, helicopters, and trees rustling in the breeze made Hair feel more like “the American tribal love-rock musical” it’s meant to be. The Park scruffed it up...My reservations had nothing to do with Paulus’s work or that of her fine choreographer, Karole Armitage. Rather, I was disturbed by certain elements in Gerome Ragni and James Rado’s book and lyrics...Its strangled, hackneyed depiction of black masculinity is painful to watch.
(Matthew Murray) Paulus, Armitage, and their cast have toiled scrupulously hard to ensure their production could survive outside the allure of the Park and its free tickets, and they’ve unquestionably succeeded. The performers that have carried over (most notably Swenson, but also Bryce Ryness as the guy with a crush on Mick Jagger and Allison Case, who’s so warmly charming singing “Frank Mills”) have only expanded their portrayals, and the newcomers (an astonishingly energetic and intense Creel, Sasha Allen as the “Aquarius” songstress, and Caissie Levy as Berger’s “Easy to Be Hard” girlfriend Sheila) fit in seamlessly. Not a one lets you feel you’re seeing less than the best that could possibly be done with this material in 2009. But you’re still seeing a 42-year-old show pretending it’s the newest, hippest thing around when it’s as out of touch as the parents (delightfully played by Megan Lawrence and Andrew Kober) it makes fun of. However top-notch this production might be, it never makes you understand the piece’s depth or insight, and thus ultimately fails.
Boston Globe D
(Louise Kennedy) I can imagine, barely, that the Public Theater's revival of Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical was more fun last summer in Central Park. But in Broadway's Al Hirschfeld Theatre, where it officially opened last night, it felt canned. Sorry, that may sound more like a Hairspray pun, but it's the best word I can muster for this teased-up, overblown affair...What may once have seemed winningly ingenuous and gently rebellious now feels unbearably naive and unforgivably glib. The antiwar sentiments of the show are still painfully relevant but uselessly one-dimensional, and beyond that there's...what? Drug jokes, sex jokes, squares-vs.-hippie jokes, and a lot of other stuff that must have sounded a little corny even the first time around.
New York Post A+ 14; Associated Press A+ 14; AM New York A+ 14; Variety A 13; TONY A 13; Hollywood Reporter A 13; American Theater Web A 13; The New York Times A 13; USA Today A 13; Bloomberg A 13; Backstage A 13; CurtainUp A 13; Newsday A- 12; TheaterMania A- 12; NY Daily News A- 12; Edge New York A- 12; Bergen Record B+ 11; New York B 10; Nytheatre.com B 10; WSJ C+ 8; NYer C+ 8; TalkinBroadway C 7; Boston Globe D 4; TOTAL: 265/23=11.52 (A-)