But first -- my comic novel, MUST KILL TV, is now on sale for only $0.99 (Kindle version). This is for a couple of days only. Here's where you go to order yours. I want to be part of your summer reading... even if I have to take a bath to do it. Again, only $0.99.
UPDATE: There had been a glitch with Amazon. Now it's fixed and the price is indeed $0.99. So if you tried before and didn't see the sale price, please check in again. It's now correct. Thanks.
My review is going to be a little different. Mine is as much about the experience as the production itself.
So when we saw that HAIR was being revived at the Hollywood Bowl I was all-too-happy to get tickets. I love going to the Bowl on a warm summer evening (you can always count on great weather in August), having dinner under the stars in one of the boxes, and enjoying a concert that wasn’t heavy Classical. (Sue me, I fall asleep.)
Well, the boxes were sold out. That meant unforgiving wooden benches in the next area code from the stage. We had friends in the boxes but the ushers wouldn’t let anyone down there who didn’t have a ticket. You can understand. These people pay good money for those boxes and they don’t want riff-raff coming down the aisles asking, “Are you gonna finish that quiche?” and “Could I hit you up for a glass of Chablis?”
There is a definite caste system at the Hollywood Bowl – those that sit in comfortable cloth director chairs and those who watch tied to a traction rack. You can rent seat cushions for a dollar. Get there four hours early if you have to to ensure they don’t run out.
Lots of people came dressed in tie-died attire; my wife being one. That’s pretty much the only ‘60s style you can still wear that doesn’t look ridiculous today… especially on baby boomers. Jean jackets, peace signs, leather fringe vests, and especially mini skirts are clothing items you need to put away on your 50th birthday or risk felony prosecution. Same for wearing bells and little clickers. I wore my 93/KHJ Boss Radio t-shirt, which was fashionably groovy but tastefully understated.
Doing Broadway shows on the Hollywood Bowl stage is like holding a poker game in an empty airplane hanger. Any intimacy is gone. The stage is the size of Rhode Island and even a cast of 33 disappears under the humongous clamshell. Fortunately, now there are Jumbotron boards so someone other than members of the Otis Chandler family in the front row and the mayor can see the actors’ faces. Considering the expanse they had to work with I thought the choreography and staging was terrific. Lots of flying hippies. And they only had two weeks to rehearse. So on that level the production was amazing… I mean, far out man!
The costumes were authentic so everyone looked like they were in a bad sketch. If the ‘60s were before your time and your only exposure to the era was this show you’d think all girls were ethereal and floated around spaced out, and that all guys had Greek God physiques and went shirtless all the time. I’m here to tell you that wasn’t the case. When you’re skinny with a sunken chest you don’t even go shirtless in the shower.
Needless to say, the nudity was not shown on the Dodgervision boards. So I saw nothing. I think they were naked. They could have been wearing parkas; I was that far back.
The themes, which seemed so relevant and important, felt silly. You have to put the show in perspective. When it debuted the typical Broadway show was HELLO DOLLY. HAIR used profanity, was political opposed the war, explored racial relations, employed rock music, promoted drug use, had a very loose story, and of course featured nudity. It was a pretty safe bet if you went to HELLO DOLLY you wouldn’t see Carol Channing full-frontal.
The songs I always liked I still liked. The others I still didn’t. And my take away from the first act was – we were sort of idiots back then. Well-intentioned and very exuberant but naive idiots just the same.
Act two was always kind of a mess. But on this night it didn’t help that it started raining. That’s right. RAIN. In Southern California. In the summer. This caught everyone by surprise of course, and for the first half hour people were either leaving or going down to ushers to get ponchos. The concourses were packed.
(I wasn’t there but I'm guessing that when it poured at Woodstock, a half a million people didn’t scramble desperately for ponchos.)
Kudos to the actors for persevering. This had to be tough for them too – especially when they see half the audience fleeing for the aisles.
It even rained in the boxes. The only section that didn’t get wet was the top because they were above the clouds.
But it was very hard to focus during the second act. So it wouldn’t be fair to give an overall impression of this production because I spent half of it trying to figure out how you put on a poncho.
All in all, I think they did the best they could with the conditions and material they had to work with. Having lived through that period, it’s disconcerting that a show that seemed so contemporary and relevant today plays like a museum piece. The nostalgia aspect is fun for about a half hour. And then you start calculating in your head how old the original cast must be, and who had the hit of “Easy To Be Hard” (Three Dog Night), and no one you knew used “psychedelic” in every sentence like these people, and does David Crosby still dress like that, and how many in the cast were wearing wigs, and how many of those hippies from 1967 are selling insurance today, and what the fuck is with this rain?
HAIR was the perfect title for this groundbreaking musical. If there is one symbol of our generation – its rebellious spirit and identifiable trademark – it’s hair. Long and twisted, bearded, braided, whatever. It’s sad to think that if they made a musical about us today it would, at best, be called SIDE BURNS.