<-- This hippie to your left is Will Swenson, backstage at Hair here on Broadway. Not Hairspray, Hair. (They definitely don't believe in hairspray in this show. The locks must be free to fly about, the wilder the better.)
Swenson plays Berger (one of the musicals two leads) and the leader of the "tribe" of drugged up sexually uninhibited anti-war kids that the musical fawns over as they drop out in Central Park. The other lead is Berger's less wild best friend "Claude" played by freshly out Broadway regular Gavin Creel. He replaced Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening) who did the role in Central Park last summer. We assume he dumped Hair for his part in Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock? It's the musical's loss but who can blame him. You'd take a role in an Ang Lee film, too.
I apologize that I've been so weirdly name-droppy lately (I blame the recession ... it's fun, try it) but fact: I went to college with Will Swenson. We were both there the same time as Aaron Eckhart. I didn't really know either of them, only of them, but that hardly matters when name-dropping. My two best friends knew them (they ran with the actor/dancer crowd) ...so I pretend like I did.
So there Swenson is in the altogether in HAIR (the famous 1st act closer still includes the whole cast getting naked). Our alma mater would most definitely not approve. In fact, Swenson's fans probably won't either. Will Swenson's film career has been almost entirely as a star actor/writer/director in the ultra specific and insular world of Mormon movies with films like Singles Ward and Sons of Provo on his resume. (That filmmaking wave won a brief bit of media attention outside of Utah in 2000 but quickly retreated back into its own bubble). But if his original fans disapprove of his latest performance, it's their loss. The Berger role is spiritually akin to the emcee role in Cabaret: he addresses the audience frequently, taunts them sexually and serves as guide into this strange world. Swenson doesn't pull any punches. His is the most sensual performance and he's got the best head of hair. He's completely "best in show". A TONY nomination better be forthcoming.
<-- the 1979 movie featured early career performances from Treat Williams, Beverly D'Angelo and John Savage. It was Milos Forman's follow up to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
I've always had trouble getting through Hair (1979) the movie. Have you seen it? I don't actually think much of the musical in general, on stage or film. It lacks as much direction as the characters it shines its sun on and I always have issues with musicals that only have 2 or 3 great songs. That said, this new production is great. The revival minimizes nearly all the musicals inherent flaws and maximizes everything that's resonant about its energy, sexuality and politics with exuberant setpieces, high energy performances, doses of reality and absolutely terrific staging which involves the audience more vigorously than any Broadway production has in recent memory. If you're visiting New York anytime soon, it's a totally rousing night of theater. This production: A
P.S. This production was so good, and its Vietnam era angst so resonant with contemporary shadings that I almost want someone to grab the film rights again. Surely more can be wrestled from it than what Milos Forman got? Here's the famous opening number "Aquarius" as interpreted in his film version and, just for fun, a number from a stage reading of another Broadway to Movies back to Broadway property, Camelot (Will Swenson is Sir Sagamore and singing with Marin Mazzie as Guinivere. He shows up at the 1:57 mark)