This is a more surprisingly vital revival of the archetypal 1960s musical than one might have thought possible. It began life as part of the Public Theater's Central Park summer season, and was rapturously received. It's no surprise that the hit parade of songs -- "Let the Sunshine In," "Aquarius" and "Easy to Be Hard" -- are as tuneful in themselves as ever, but director Diane Paulus has miraculously given a strong dramatic arc to the almost plotless original, as did Milos Forman in his 1979 screen version.
Will Swenson is charismatic as Berger, who serves as the show's narrator, and Gavin Creel is also outstanding as Claude, whose decision whether to burn his draft card or allow himself to be sent to Vietnam propels the action.
The work's strong anti-war message has been heightened here. The show gives us a snapshot in time on the hippie culture, but without seeming to glorify it, as the likable Berger's freewheeling attitude is eventually shown to be hollow.
(Al Hirschfeld Theatre, 302 W. 45th St., (212) 239-6200 or Telecharge.com)
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