The touring production of HAIR, rolled into town this week and despite the vigorous choreography (summersaults while singing!), plethora of attractive people on stage and the ear-worm music that probably makes Andrew Lloyd Webber jealous, I have to wonder if HAIR is still relevant.
If the Iraq/Afghanistan invasions and international "Occupy" movements have taught us anything, it's that the anti-war and anti-establishment outrage are alive and well in present day. Contemporary hipsters and/or the granola/organic counter-culture, can arguably be compared to the hippie culture of the 70s, and drugs are still a very common part of youth society (with LSD being replaced by cocaine and speed).
So if the themes of HAIR are still active 30+ years later, why do I feel like I couldn't relate to the story?
I've never been a travelling salesman or a member of posh aristocracy, but I feel like I can relate to themes in DEATH OF A SALESMAN and THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST, so why do I have so much trouble with HAIR?
I think it's because I'm not sure what HAIR is supposed to be. It's a musical with catchy tunes and mostly fluffy lyrics, but it's also got a serious message of war protest and individualism that was downgraded to a supporting role subordinate to the jokes about long hair and sex.
The flaw with this is that in 2011 I'm not shocked by multiple f-bombs, nudity, inter-racial love or drug talk; Mary Louise Parker does all of that in one season of "Weeds". If you want to discuss politics and morals, don't drown it with sugary lyrics about Mick Jagger and how in love the girls are (according to HAIR, women in the 70s were primarily concerned with boys because they didn't have much else to say). I want the politics, I want the morals and I want it with the drug talk and swearing, but you can't expect me to be invested in a storyline that doesn't take the time to invest in itself.
Having said all of this, I'm happy to admit that this production is chock FULL of talent. The cast is hot in every way possible, the direction is awesome and the choreography is truly inspired.
It's a tight, fun night at the theatre and if you're a fan of the film or grew up with it (or in it), then you won't be disappointed. I just wish HAIR took itself more seriously, in both the political message, and in its humour.
Despite my cynicism I will say this: during the curtain call, I looked on stage at the once-reluctant-to-participate audience members, now singing and dancing with the cast, and then looked around at my fellow audience members who were all on their feet, clapping, and I felt a rush of internal warmth we've taken to calling "the warm fuzzies". There's at least one part of HAIR that's still relevant and always will be: Let the Sunshine In.
HAIR is playing at the Royal Alexandra Theatre (260 King St. W.) until Dec. 31.
For tix: ticketking.com. Rush tix available for $25! Obstructed view seats though and 2/person.