Tuesday, July 22, 2014 Tammuz 24, 5774

Good Morning, Starshine!

April 30, 2009 By:
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You ask me why I'm just a hairy guy.

Go ahead. Ask me.

Oh, that picture -- an old photo from my college days in the 1960s, when I had long beautiful hair: shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen.

Now it's more "Grey Gardens" than straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty, oily, greasy, fleecy, knotted, polka-dotted, twisted, beaded, braided powdered, flowered -- and confettied.

But that's okay, because I think I just discovered and uncovered the musical muse of Minoxidil.

No need to be at the pharmacy counter for Rogaine anymore; just drop by the Broadway box office for "Hair," where transplants from the '60s have their own rooting section for a wonderful revival that draws a bead on the love beads of those summers of love.

Somehow, some way, the Gerome Ragni/James Rado/Galt MacDermot moment in the sun has got the gestalt just right, not only back then, but today, too. Ironically retrofitted into the confines of the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, this generation so long caricatured gets a bright, psychedelic, psychologically uplifting revival for its revolutionary messages.

Of course, free love is gonna cost ya these days; tickets top out at $120.

But some benefits come in the most unexploited, unexpected ways.

During one of the musical's more intimate moments -- there are many, as actors clamber over and among the crowd -- one of the performers came to my seat and handed me a daisy to wear in my hair, a piece of love kiddingly accepted but, inwardly, rejected by someone who more than once has asked himself, cynically exploring the everyday world's listlessness, where have all the flowers gone?

In a wonderful way, I felt like I was floating through space back to those college days when, after the Six-Day War, "Jewish Power" buttons magically popped up on campus (okay, so instead of the straight-arm salute associated with the "black power" clip-ons, these showed shrugged shoulders).

But now, 42 years after originally brought to Broadway by Joseph Papp's Public Theater, the sun shines in with a flash that illuminates the past, and the present even more so.

Those Jewish strands soaked in social justice are rewoven into a broader tapestry of tzedakah here.

But then, there is the ultimate irony to reconsider -- of reaching out to help a stranger, as expressed so lyrically with: "especially people/Who care about strangers/Who say they care about social injustice/Do you only/Care about the bleeding crowd/How about a needing friend?"

Good question.

"Hair" was never afraid of ripping its own generation's love genes even as it celebrated its free-form unfettered friendship with the unanchored. The hyped Haight-Ashbury hypocrisy of friendship in the abstract while ignorance of the concrete gets a beautiful burnish here with a song at once cynical and hopeful.

Easy to be hard, indeed.

No other '60s' show -- Tom O'Horgan directed the original Broadway version of "Hair"; sadly, the iconoclastic director is pushing up daisies these days instead of handing them out, having died earlier this year -- rocked Broadway standards as "Hair" once did.

And nothing has since in the same way.

On stage is the revolutionary rainbow coalition that so coolly burst upon us long before Jesse Jackson jacked up the clouds and found a spectrum of spirit he claimed his own. Here in the new millennium, a musical about a lost tribe of Jews ... and gentiles ... and blacks ... and whites ... searches outwards for inner peace.

Somehow, the show seems fresher with the defining distance of time. Were those protests and boycotts of the 1960s emboldened more by a need to impress others than the real soulful drive to steer change this way? Maybe it was a combination of both.

For it was an era of introspection and irritating "selflessness," when day-tripping may have been a means of self-discovery or, maybe, self-delusion. But if LSD and what it stood for now stands for Long Since Debunked, why is Mary Jane assembled in a brand-new white dress courted by state legislators? Weed out history and -- maybe it's just being puckish -- but suddenly they find some petals worthy of plucking financially?

When I first saw "Hair" 42 years ago -- zipping up to New York in a car so hot, its wheels barely touched the turnpike -- a moon in its seventh house could easily have meant a Jewish teenager's vision of a prank held at every frat house on campus rather than a star-crossed accommodation of heaven.

But is my vision still the same -- and I don't mean making sure I had my glasses now for the Act One finale?

(What? There was nudity? It was a bigger deal in 20-20 hindsight, but I still found myself damming the current dim lighting.)

Good morning, Starshine? If you lead us along -- my love and me as we sing our early morning singing song -- why is it that that song is so saturated in mumbles now, and why, if asking myself, "Where do I go?" it's not the the gulls I'm fearful of following but those leading the gullible?

Or is it, Good Mourning, Starshine?

But then, as I leave the theater, if that's really so -- dreams ripped as ragged as those tickets tie-dyeing the carpeted theater floor -- if I really had the offbeat viewpoint of my youth offed by single-vision lenses ... why am I still wearing that flower in my hair? 

 

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