Clive Barnes

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 436

What is so likable about "Hair" …? I think it is simply that it is so likable. So new, so fresh and so unassuming, even in its pretensions….

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[When it was off-Broadway] its music came across with a kind of acid-rock, powerhouse lyricism, but the book, concerning the life and times of hippie protest was as rickety as a knock-kneed centipede.

Now the authors of the dowdy book—and brilliant lyrics—have done a very brave thing. They have in effect done away with it altogether. "Hair" is now a musical with a theme, not with a story. Nor is this all that has been done in this totally new, all lit-up, gas-fired, speed-marketed Broadway version. For one thing it has been made a great deal franker. In fact it has been made into the frankest show in town—and this has been a season not noticeable for its verbal or visual reticence….

[A] great many four-letter words, such as "love," are used very freely. At one point—in what is later affectionately referred to as "the nude scene"—a number of men and women … are seen totally nude and full, as it were, face.

Frequent references—frequent approving references—are made to the expanding benefits of drugs. Homosexuality is not frowned upon—one boy announces that he is in love with Mick Jagger, in terms unusually frank. The American flag is not desecrated—that would be a Federal offense, wouldn't it?—but it is used in a manner that not everyone would call respectful. Christian ritual also comes in for a bad time, the authors approve enthusiastically of miscegenation, and one enterprising lyric catalogues somewhat arcane sexual practices more familiar to the pages of the "Kama Sutra" than The New York Times. So there—you have been warned. Oh yes, they also hand out flowers….

[A] number of new songs have been written, apparently to fill in the gaps where the old book used to be. By and large these new numbers are not quite the equal of the old, but the old ones—a few of them sounding like classics by now—are still there, and this is a happy show musically….

Yet with the sweet and subtle lyrics of Gerome Ragni and James Rado, the show is the first Broadway musical in some time to have the authentic voice of today rather than the day before yesterday.

Clive Barnes, "Likable Rock Musical Moves to Broadway," in The New York Times (© 1968 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), April 29, 1968 (and reprinted in The New York Times Theatre Reviews, The New York Times Company, 1971).

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