HAIR by James Rado, Gerome Ragni and Galt MacDermot, directed by Robert A. Prior (CanStage). At Bluma Appel (27 Front East). To June 17. $53-$80, some discounts. See Continuing. 416-368-3110. Rating:NN Rating: NN
If CanStage's revival of the flower-power anti-war musical Hair does anything, it'll make you appreciate Milos Forman's flawed 1979 film version. At least the movie, adapted by playwright Michael Weller, had a decent story that put the dozens of songs into some context.
The show itself, altered for this production by co-writer James Rado , is really a glorified revue in which the songs are linked by what I can only describe as stoner logic.
In late 1960s New York City, a group of ethnically diverse friends who label themselves the Tribe are experimenting with drugs, sex and political protest.
They hate authority (parents, teachers), dig each other (they sleep with whomever they like) and, above all, are opposed to the war in Vietnam.
When one of their fold, Claude ( Jamie McKnight ), gets drafted, they encourage him to burn his draft card. He doesn't. Total bummer.
The show's look at race, sex and politics - alongside CanStage's marketing tagline "Now more than ever" - feels pretty naive today. The production's brightly coloured props and pristine costumes, along with the simplistic way the cast sell most of the songs, feel more appropriate for a kids' TV show like The Polka-Dot Door or Today's Special. Or a Gap ad. It's no surprise that the concession stand does brisk business at intermission.
But some bits have retained their power. It's hard not to be moved by the stirring conclusion, the minor-key anthem Let The Sunshine In. And I liked how some of the songs - Ain't Got No, I Got Life and Hair - were essentially inversions of each other. A big extended acid-trip scene in the second act succeeds because it's theatrical.
Too bad the show's being staged at the cold Bluma Appel. Why not a warehouse space, or at least something with a thrust stage to get the audience more involved?
The best I can say of the cast of mostly unknowns is that they're refreshing and energetic. Only Craig Burnatowski creates anything resembling a character, however. His Berger is confident and strutting, and he sings the songs like he really believes them.
One note: for a show called Hair, the men are uniformly smooth-bodied.