H appenin' shindig, Hair is a musical entirely about hippies! Scoff if you must, but also remember that back in the '60s, when Hair was created, hippies were kind of cool, and not objects of loathing and ridicule. They did shitloads of drugs, diddled each other in groups of three and more, and had an endlessly optimistic belief in the power of protest to make positive change. Hair delivers on all that potential, AND has some of the coolest tunes to ever grace a full-scale musical. Quite simply, Hair rocks.
It's clear from the amazing opening number, "Aquarius" (sing with me now: "This is the dawning of the age of aquarius!") that despite a light and sound system from the stone ages, the cast of Radiant Theatre's production is ready to rock. They vamp, they strut, they grind, they hump, they remove clothing with reckless abandon (you won't see another show this year with more flopping male genitalia), and best of all, they sing with unrestrained gusto. Director Anna Soderbergh moves them energetically through the Alberta Arts Pavilion's concrete space, and the show basically zips along, carried on the shoulders of such marvelous numbers as "Donna," "Hair," and "Good Morning Starshine."
It's good the music is great, because the script of Hair is inane, and even boring. One of the hippies gets drafted to go to Vietnam, then takes a bunch of drugs and spends the second act of the play naked and hallucinating. The threads of this story arrive in haphazard bouts of dialogue that only occasionally connect the songs together. Some songs, like the achingly sweet "Frank Mills," belong in a different show entirely. Radiant's production employs fog machines and strobe lights, but still doesn't have the resources to make the trippy second act interesting. They also neglect the play's distinct sense of place--on the streets of New York--failing to imbue the Pavilion with any sort of setting or context. The show thus comes across as Portlanders pretending to be hippies, and singing cool songs in somebody's basement, as opposed to a journey to another place and time.
Despite these flaws, Radiant's production is fun. As hippies die out, Hair will be shown less and less in ensuing decades, so let's bask in its prevailing themes while we still can. Peace and love, man. Peace and Love. JUSTIN WESCOAT SANDERS