Let the Sun Shine In: Hair [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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A look backwards, using contemporary interviews and archival footage, at "Hair" the musical, a theatrical and cultural phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s. The documentary is arranged, loosely, around themes: the context of its creation, friendships among its creators, rehearsals, media coverage, race, sex, politics, backlash, several deaths, drug use leading to dissolution, and an assessment of the play's importance. The commentary comes from a dozen people looking back: creators, producers, actors, and directors of the play and film
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There's some great vintage performances of the original tribe including creators James Rado and Gerome Ragni as they perform in 1968 on "The Smothers Brothers" and "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson," and includes footage of the marquees of the various theaters that was showing the musical and newspaper reviews of "Hair" from that time period.
Rado (Claude) talks about the inspiration he and Gerome Ragni (Berger), fellow actor and writer of "Hair," had as they created the story that would not only change Broadway but would become a movement and a snapshot of one of the most turbulent times in America. Director Tom O'Horgan, producer Michael Butler, author Scott Miller Let the Sun Shine In: The Genius of HAIR, producer of the international versions of "Hair" Betrand Castelli, and the brilliant Galt McDermot who put the lyrics to music, all make appearances as does Milos Forman (who did the 1979 movie remake Hair) in the present day.
The film also makes comparisons to that era with today by showing footage from wars and protests from then with now. And there's footage of a new cast--not the one that's on Broadway now in 2009-this doc was made in 2007.
***Original Cast Members from various tribes remembering "Hair"--Very young Tim Curry (French interview vintage) and Melba Moore, Keith Carradine, Ben Vereen, Mary Lorrie Davis and Jonathon Johnson (interviews done in the present/2007).
***Vintage performances from the original tribes and photos, along with vintage interviews.
***Vintage footage of the real hippies and youth movement of the time.
The EXTRAS are almost an hour, running at 57:24, but they don't really add anything.
***Milos Forman interview discusses Madonna who auditioned for the movie, how Treat Williams got the part of Berger, and Cheryl Barnes performance that blew him away.
***More of Ben Vereen's interview.
***Director Tom O'Horgan directing an acting workshop with a new cast of "Hair" and other workshops with various tribes (i.e. Los Angeles). Although these workshop scenes are interesting to watch it doesn't really add anything other than to let the viewer see how the original cast might have been rehearsed. Again, this is not the cast that's on Broadway now.
I would have liked to see more of the interview with Melba Moore. Moore took over the role of "Sheila" after Diane Keaton went on to another play-- according to Moore's interview in the movie--and this added another dimension to the show since it now dealt with inter-racial couple/trio.
Also, no Donna Summer interview. She was in the Munich production and writes about it in Ordinary Girl: The Journey. Perhaps the documentary's creators, Pola Rapaport and Wolfgang Held, couldn't get Summer but you'd think that she want to be a part of this documentary since she wrote in her book that getting the role in "Hair" and moving to Germany was a life altering experience and one that was so important to her career.
Oh well, maybe with the success of this new revival on Broadway the documentary will be extended. Anyway, it's a pretty decent inside look at the American Tribal Love-Rock Musical HAIR!
With that said, here are some of the pluses and minuses of this film:
On the plus side... the show's relevance to the current world political climate. MOST of the interviews, especially from three authors of books about the show(one from the original Broadway cast, another from the final performance and especially Scott Miller, who also posted his review here on AMAZON). Many of the songs from the score, either performed or used as background(although amusingly, "Easy To Be Hard" is credited to Off-Broadway's "Sheila", Jill O'Hara, and NOT correctly to the film's astounding Cheryl Barnes). Clips of both the Broadway and Los Angeles companies (although sadly, the NY company's appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" has vanished into the hitherlands).
On the minus side- not enough interviews with OTHER members from HAIR's Broadway cast(or original OFF-BROADWAY production, prior to Tom O'Horgan's re-envisioning of it). Too much time spent on Keith Carradine, a replacement "Claude". Not enough on how the international companies affected their respective countries. More on "behind-the-scenes" of putting on HAIR, dealing with back-stage politics(for that, find a copy of Lorrie Davis's "LETTING DOWN MY HAIR", sadly out-of-print- so try e-Bay). Too much time spent with Milos Forman, director of the misbegotten film version(which both authors Ragni and Rado detested, and while entertaining and musically outstanding, in no way captures the hippie lifestyle or captures the stage show's sponteniety). And WAY too much time spent on rehearsals for a revival.
All-in-all, this doc is worth a look... but you'd seriously gain way more information and insight by reading LETTING DOWN MY HAIR, THE AGE OF HAIR, GOOD HAIR DAYS and most importantly LET THE SUNSHINE IN: THE GENIUS OF HAIR, the four books about one of the greatest musicals ever created.
I was hoping that I had found a documentary of the making of Milos Forman's film, but if this documentary had been done more skilfully it could have been interesting by itself. But the continuity is terrible, and it's just plain sloppy. Perhaps there is material for a 25 minute show in this, but then it is bloated up by nonsense to force it up to a length that can be sold on DVD.
If anybody wants to help me: Where can I find the fantastic documentary about the making of Forman's film? It's mindblowingly good, and goes through all the casting of the film and the magic that made it possible to do the film on relatively low budget at just that moment in time. How the right people just seemed to pop out of nowhere, just when they were needed.