Gerome Ragni Clive Barnes - Essay

Clive Barnes

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"Hair" is beautiful…. Nearly a year after the opening, the show has a kind of radiant freshness. It still seems as though the whole thing is swiftly, deftly and dazzlingly being improvised before your very eyes….

Seeing "Hair" again did raise a few questions. Its success stems from two things. First its perfect reflection of a generation that seems in no mood to lower its voice—it knows what whispering can do to people. Second the music by Galt MacDermot and the lyrics by Ragni and Rado. This is pop-pop, or commercial pop, with little aspirations to art—a clever and honest dilution of what is happening in pop music. Fundamentally it is pure Broadway—but Broadway 1969 rather than Broadway 1949.

Then I found myself thinking about so many of the misconceptions about "Hair," which seem to have risen among that great section of the public who have never seen the show.

People say that it attracts only middle-aged suburbanites … and has no appeal to youth. This is a lie….

Also, people say the show is dirty. Rubbish. It is as clean as Tide and not half so chemical. Members of the cast do occasionally use naughty words, but in a quite childlike fashion. They do—for one moment of social and esthetic revolt—take off their clothes if they wish to. But this is not obscene. It is also totally asexual. If you are proposing to go to "Hair" for sexual stimulation you don't need a theater ticket, you need treatment….

So go and see "Hair." If you have just one show to see on Broadway try and make it this one. If you hate it, I cannot promise to give you your money back. But I rather doubt if we could ever become friends.

Clive Barnes, "'Hair'," in The New York Times (© 1969 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), February 5, 1969 (and reprinted in The New York Times Theatre Reviews, The New York Times Company, 1971).