The coolest thing about the national touring production of “Hair” onstage at the Golden Gate Theatre is that it doesn't feel like a period piece.
Gleefully dancing and writhing in skin-tight, bell-bottomed jeans and fringe vests, the hippies at the center of the groundbreaking 1967 rock musical about peace, love and war seem as real and relevant as they did decades ago.
It's no surprise that the Broadway revival of the show won a Tony Award in 2009, for in addition to its '60s-specific themes – the sexual revolution, drugs, the draft and Vietnam – it's also about the exuberance and craziness of youth, young people growing up and making life choices.
The book and lyrics by Gerome Ragni, James Rado and music by Galt MacDermot remain whimsical, wry and wise. As they sleep together, get high together, protest together and sometimes get in fights, the characters — though sketched briefly — come to life. Amazingly, the plot is uncomplicated yet meaningful.
Berger (Steel Burkhardt) gets down to business quickly, opening the show, speaking directly to the audience, and stripping off his pants. (The nude scene with the whole cast at the end of Act 1 also manages to be natural, not forced.)
His friend Claude (Paris Remillard), under pressure from his parents to do something with his life faces the draft, and Sheila (Sara King) feels the pain of unrequited love.
The rest of the Tribe – singing, dancing, joking or attending a “Be-in” – rounds out the fun. Square folks of the older generation watching their antics even have a third dimension.
Director Diane Paulus and choreographer Karole Armitage brilliantly keep the cast moving throughout, both onstage and getting up close and personal with folks in the audience, even running their fingers through theatergoers' hair.
The show's famous songs, familiar radio hits to baby boomers – “Aquarius,” “Let the Sun Shine In,” “Good Morning Starshine,” “Easy to Be Hard” – still sound great. The ones that weren't on the charts are as good, tunefully moving the story along.
Scott Pask's set, a groovy graphic backdrop and platform serving as a landing for the excellent band, simply but accurately reflects the era. The same goes for Michael McDonald's eye-catching costumes, which made at least one middle-aged theatergoer audience yearn for her tie dye and macramé belt.
Where: Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes Nov. 20
Tickets: $31 to $95
Contact: (888) 746-1799 or www.shnsf.com