1 April, 2009

Hair: the Musical & Me

I am not sure how old I was when my older brothers and I, our lives unfolding in a still-quiet Sri Lanka, began singing “Good morning starshine, the earth says hello..you twinkle above us, we twinkle below…Good morning starshine, you lead us along…my love and me as we sing our early morning singing song.”

Actually, now that I think about it, that was my favorite. My brothers selected different themes. The one, still wrapped up in many iterations of the divine and distrustful, even fearful, of the righteous wrathful, sang “Manchester England England, across the Atlantic Sea…And I’m a genius genius…I believe in God…,” the look on his face a carbon – and genuine – impression of Treat Williams as he marches his sexy but raggedy-bottom toward the bowels of a plane headed for Vietnam. And the other brother, true to the heart-heavy activist he would become, sang thus: “We starve-look at one another short of breath/ Walking proudly in our winter coats/ Wearing smells from laboratories /Facing a dying nation of moving paper fantasy…”

All this came to mind this morning as I read the review of the latest production of Hair, which opened yesterday at the Al Hirschfield Theater.

As Ben Brantley puts it:

The kids of “Hair” are cuddly, sweet, madcap and ecstatic. They’re also angry, hostile, confused and scared as hell — and not just of the Vietnam War, which threatens to devour the male members of their tribe. They’re frightened of how the future is going to change them and of not knowing what comes next. Acting out the lives of the adults they disdain (a charade at which Andrew Kober, Theo Stockman and Megan Lawrence are particularly expert) becomes a cathartic ritual.

And these are universal themes. Back in a country where no snow fell, where none of us children had yet crossed the Atlantic or even the Indian Ocean, where pop movies like Grease would only make it to Sri Lanka several years after their release here, and where others such as Gone With The Wind had to be seen at special invitation-only screenings for the artsy few, a group to which my parents belonged, a movie whose socio-political implications we children missed entirely (more fascinated by the blue eyeshadow on a boy sitting behind us than by Scarlett’s waistline), Hair, the movie, was a gorgeous, liberating, belt-out-the-blues treat, the kind of wild disobedience your lungs spill out into the streets with gusto upon leaving the theatre. But more than that was the story my father told of seeing Hair “on Broadway,” something that seemed impossibly fortuitous. It was much later that I, a foreign student standing at the cross-streets, realized that “Broadway” was not a stage, but a street.

Again, Brantley:

But of course no stage can contain the hormone-stoked exuberance of those who inhabit it, whether they’re yipping, unzipping or tripping, both merrily and scarily. Know that you may find yourself in intimate contact with various dancing, cajoling tribe members. They may give you daisies or leaflets. They may even ask you to embrace them. Not that you haven’t already.

Which is to say that we three all-grown children-from-another-land still continue to sing,

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

as though it was written for us alone. Perhaps it was.

One Response to “Hair: the Musical & Me”

  1. I read your blog for a long time and should tell you that your articles always prove to be of a high value and quality for readers.

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The Books:

The Books:

On Sal Mal Lane

In the tradition of In the Time of the Butterflies and The Kite Runner, a tender, evocative novel about the years leading up to the Sri Lankan civil war.

A Disobedient Girl

A Disobedient Girl is a compelling map of womanhood, its desires and loyalties, set against the backdrop of beautiful, politically turbulent, Sri Lanka.


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