Hair Is Back, But Is It Still Relevant?

The recession of 2009 may not be the Age of Aquarius, all leather vests and pot and be-ins, but 41 years after it originally opened, Hair is just as germane. The new Broadway production is being staged at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, starring Will Swenson as Berger, a rebellious Abbie Hoffman type, and Gavin Creel as Claude, the mixed-up kid who gets drafted to Vietnam and can't decide whether to dutifully serve his country — and his parents — or to rage against the machine with his hippie friends. The story deals with identity, racial integration, war, sex, and drugs in a way that doesn't feel shocking the way it must've in the '60s — but it does still feel insightful and frank.

Though (thankfully) there's not a draft these days, we're still stuck in lingering wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Leading up to the 2008 Presidential election, pundits rattled on about what little progress we'd made in terms of race (remember talk about the Bradley Effect?). Those two factors make Hair feel like it could've been written last year.

I saw the show with my parents, who hadn't seen it since 1971. Though it was a little awkward during the full-frontal nudity (no Brazilians there — the cast is faithful to the term hair), it actually led to a great conversation. I knew my dad had an occupational deferment (he was working for AmeriCorps at the time) so didn't go to Vietnam. But when we talked at intermission about how Claude debated whether to burn his draft card, I learned that my dad had actually considered volunteering for the military, but his father, a World War II officer, talked him out of it.

Politics and deep talks aside, Hair is a fun night out, with great music (there are dozens of numbers besides "Age of Aquarius") and "the tribe" dancing along with you in the aisles and even onstage during the "Let the Sunshine In" encore. And as my favorite song from the show, "Easy to Be Hard," proved, it's hard not to fall in love with Hair.

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