Clive Barnes

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 406

The progenies of "Hair" have not enjoyed a great track record. It is therefore all the more pleasant to report that the latest of that tribe, "Rainbow,"… is a distinct success. It has the style, manner and energy of "Hair," as well as its chaotic organization and its simplistic view of a far from simple world….

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The musical is joyous and life-assertive. It is the first musical to derive from "Hair" that really seems to have the confidence of a new creation about it, largely derived from James Rado's sweet and fresh music and lyrics.

"Rainbow" almost literally takes off from where "Hair" ended. At the end of "Hair," Claude, the drafted dropout, is killed in Vietnam. In "Rainbow," someone called simply Man has been killed in Vietnam, and comes over the other side into Rainbow land….

The whole thing is great fun until for one horrid and unfortunate moment, the Brothers Rado feel impelled to introduce a conscience-struck note of political significance.

The Man, accompanied by his Rainbow Room of cronies, goes to Washington and there sees the President. "Why was I killed in Vietnam, Mr. President," he asks plaintively. Mr. President, a good guy at heart, replies: "If it was my fault, forgive me." Yes, well. But such lapses apart—and there aren't many—"Rainbow" really swings and pulses.

Perhaps the big surprise is provided by James Rado's music, which comes out in a gush of melody. It is a brilliant score full of the most astonishing variety. Some of it does sound like the great Galt MacDermot score for "Hair," and the influence of MacDermot is strongly felt. But there is also country music, band music, showbiz pastiche, all manner of music, held into one homogenous score by its characteristic forcefulness….

Mr. Rado's lyrics have a bizarre zaniness. Apart from the occasional modish dirtiness, there is a Lewis Carroll madness here that is most appealing. They say crazy things and evoke crazy images, but do so with a most bouncy zest….

What separates "Rainbow" from the other rock and plotless musicals that have recently been going bump in the night, is its stylistic cohesion and lack of pretensions. It is not only noisy and brash, it is also very likable.

Clive Barnes, "'Rainbow'," in The New York Times (© 1972 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), December 19, 1972 (and reprinted in The New York Times Theatre Reviews, The New York Times Company, 1973, p. 348).

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Walter Kerr


Walter Kerr

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