BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
Scarcely more than a year since “Hair” said farewell to Broadway following a goodly run, the Public Theater’s award-winning revival of the 1967 musical has returned for a summer visit.
Aside from mass changes in personnel, the touring edition that opened on Wednesday at the St. James Theatre appears little different than the previous “Hair.” So if you missed the show on its last go-round, here’s your chance to time-trip back to that famous Stoned Age of flower children, hippies and groovy vibrations.
The tunefully kaleidoscopic score by composer Galt McDermot and lyricists Gerome Ragni and James Rado remains an exuberant sampler of late ‘60s music styles while the loose, episodic text offers vivid flashes from an American era that was tumultuous and troubled yet hopeful in spirit.
Diane Paulus, the director, frequently sends the performers cavorting into the aisles and even up into the mezzanine to connect directly with viewers, while choreographer Karole Armitage puts them through a convulsive series of ritualistic dances that pulse with energy. Meanwhile the onstage band arranged atop a pick-up truck kicks out the memorable music.
Drenched in purple hazes of lighting by Kevin Adams and beautifully dressed by designer Michael McDonald in a ragtag profusion of colors, prints and funky styles, the ensemble is a wildly enthusiastic crew who sing their songs with gusto.
Most prominent among the leading players, a hunky Steel Burkhardt recklessly streaks around as the Dionysian figure of Berger whose confident ways contrast against the indecisive Claude played wistfully by Paris Remillard. Caren Lyn Tackett is the fiery activist Sheila, Phyre Hawkins displays a radiant voice on numbers like “Aquarius” and “White Boys” and Kacie Sheik often is touching as the lovelorn Jeanie.
Paulus’ dynamic staging of the songs and scenes succeeds in fostering a spontaneous atmosphere that encapsulates the anti-establishment aura of the musical’s far-off and far-out times. While the show itself ends poignantly on a tragic note, a post-bows dance party that brings viewers onstage to rock out to a mega-mix medley sends everybody home on a positive high.
“Hair” continues through Sept. 10 at the St. James Theatre, 246 W. 44th St., New York. Call (212) 239-6200 or visit www.hairbroadway.com.