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The creative team for the revival has managed the difficult task of recapturing the '60s spirit without resorting to irony or camp. Director Diane Paulus says her young cast (most of them--including Jonathan Groff, a Tony nominee for Spring Awakening, and Will Swenson--are better singers than the originals) has gained a new appreciation of those distant counterculture years. "I think people are desperately longing to reconnect," she says, "to a time when you as a citizen felt like you could make a change in your country." Oskar Eustis, the Public Theater's artistic director and the guiding spirit behind the production, likes to hammer home the parallels between the Vietnam protests of Hair's era and the current disillusion with America's adventure in Iraq. "A lot has changed since 1968," said Eustis onstage to welcome the audience before the first performance in Central Park. "They don't let us take pictures of the dead boys anymore." Says Eustis: "Now we have kind of a double perspective, because we realize in how many ways those dreams did not come to fruition in 1967 and 1968. To me, it's more tragic and beautiful than the original."
The hairdos and Hare Krishna chants may be dated, but Hair still looks hipper than most of its rock-musical descendants: more musically adventurous than Rent, less narratively conventional than In the Heights. Watching a group of artists breaking loose, adapting an art form to reflect the times and pursuing the dream that those times might change as a result is inspiring in any era. Today Hair seems, if anything, more daring than ever.