Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Hair" at Hanna -- a four letter show

Cleveland Press March 10, 1971

"Hair" -- the most overrated and over-amplified show in the history of musicals -- opened at the Hanna last night. Nothing I say here will have any affect, the show also being oversold well before its opening.

Hair is billed as the American tribal love-rock festival which may have some significance, but it escapes me. It is not without its moments and clearly there is a degree of sincerity often absent from better shows. But sincerity does not make it better.

The formless, shapeless show carries a message about turning on and dropping out. It is a protest play, whenever it gets around to being a play. But mostly it is a series of skits, of black-out sketches; a revue of sorts.

It tries so desperately to be new, but it is basically old -- as old as burlesque. And some of the gags, the earthy bits, the slapstick were old when burlesque was new.

What sells "Hair" besides salesmanship?

It is the first and the biggest of the rock musicals, something a generation raised on rock can call its own. It has an anti-war message. It 's dynamic as well as loud.

It also is over-sexed. It has all the four letter Anglo Saxon words not once or twice but over and over again. "Hair" is clearly one long four-letter word.

And yes, it has that nude bit at the end of the first act -- the cast standing there in dim light, minus clothes and with a mixture of timidity and defiance. It is brief and it makes no contribution to either beauty or sex.

Most of the stage business is risque, a great deal of boys and girls grappling and groping and when it isn't boys and girls it's boys and boys or girls and girls.

Which doesn't save it from being dull, a spirit of inventiveness not being one of the strong points of "Hair."

What is missing from this particular production is an electricity, a spirit that was present in the original.

"Hair" is a happening, but last night it was mostly an incident. Some of the old sparks were present when the company sang "Let the Sunshine In" but by then the show was over.

The opening number, "Aquarius," does not overcome as it might and should. Part of the problem with this song and many of the others too was a lack in the lead singers, a faltering when they should have been coming on strong.

As a rock musical it boasts three good songs, none of which are rock but are traditional melodies with an overlay of rock.

"Hair" tries hard to shock. It mixes sacrilege with scorn for the flag, marriage, the president and vice president and Kate Smith. Is nothing sacred? In its attempt to outrage it strains so heavily it misses.

When all else fails there is the ever-present tendency to turn up the sound to ear shattering levels, to engage in psychedelia and to dance wildly.

If any of this upsets you, by all means stay away. If you want to know what currently turns on your kids take a look at "Hair ' but be prepared to be bored as well as shocked.