In Central Park, 'Hair' Line Brings A City Closer Free summer staging of the '60s musical has New Yorkers camping out overnight — but a sense of shared adventure (and bike messengers bearing delivery breakfasts) help pass the time.
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In Central Park, 'Hair' Line Brings A City Closer

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In Central Park, 'Hair' Line Brings A City Closer

In Central Park, 'Hair' Line Brings A City Closer

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Now to a very different festive scene, a tradition each summer in New York City's Central Park. People line up for free theater. Some camp out all night to make sure they get a ticket. And this month, those lines have been huge.

All the fuss is over a 40-year-old musical about a bunch of hippies. We're talking about "Hair." NPR's Margot Adler got in line to find out if all the waiting is worth it.

MARGOT ADLER: Full disclosure, I didn't think this was a story until I spent seven hours waiting for tickets and felt it was fun, relaxing and totally worth it.

People come with chairs, inflatable mattresses, picnic baskets, games, and some things you might never imagine. Michael James is an actor.

Mr. MICHAEL JAMES (Actor): This is my third time seeing this production, yeah.

ADLER: And have you been sitting in line every single time?

Mr. JAMES: Yeah, yeah.

ADLER: This is how you spend your weekend?

Mr. JAMES: This is how I spend my weekend.

ADLER: And this is a common refrain. Marsha Berry is near the head of the line.

Ms. MARSHA BERRY (Spectator): I got here at 20 after 3:00.

ADLER: Oh, my God. And why did you decide to get here so early?

Ms. BERRY: Because this is my fifth time seeing the show.

ADLER: No.

Ms. BERRY: And - yes, yes. I saw it back in the '60s, and this show is a grillion times better. So, I just can't see it enough, and I can't bring enough of my friends to see it.

Mr. MIGUEL RIVERA (Spectator): (Speaking foreign language). Oh, I'm sorry, wrong language. My name is Miguel Rivera, and I've seen it twice already. This is my second time around. I enjoy it very much. I'm looking forward to seeing it again today.

ADLER: In the beginning, the line, which already stretches several city blocks, is quiet. Then out comes Zach Spicer, an actor working public theater security. He tells you the rules.

Mr. ZACH SPICER (Actor): There is no swapping, cutting, changing places or saving places in line. Also, second rule is now that you are here, you are here, and you must not leave. Do not go frolic in the park. Do not go to Starbucks. Since you cannot leave, we do have the number to a deli. It will deliver anything from breakfast sandwiches, coffee, newspapers to kitty litter and bleach, whatever you guys want.

ADLER: There is a public bathroom you can use. Within 30 minutes, bike messengers are passing down the line, calling out names with breakfast. Angus Killick is among the first to have his order arrive.

Mr. ANGUS KILLICK (Spectator): I ordered a bagel with cream cheese, a very New York breakfast, of course.

Ms. WILLIE WILLIAMS(ph): I'm Willie Williams, and I have a mouth full of bagel.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ADLER: Other people brought their own spreads, from elaborate picnic baskets filled with home-cooked food to piles of doughnuts and boxes of morning Joe. Of course, there's Scrabble, cards, books, knitting and the Sunday Times. Garrett Rosso brought his dog.

Mr. GARRETT ROSSO (Spectator): This is Kai, the Rhodesian ridgeback.

ADLER: I assume that she doesn't get to see the show.

Mr. ROSSO: It's a hippy musical. She should be able to come. She'd probably bark.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MARK JACOBY (Spectator): (Singing) (Unintelligible) give me things that won't get tossed.

ADLER: Mark Jacoby spent a half an hour stringing his guitar. Now, he's playing it to people listening and sleeping nearby. Frank Silverberg, a financial advisor, sums it all up.

Mr. FRANK SILVERBERG (Financial Advisor): We sit and schmooze, get to meet all the people on the line, get to see a great show for free.

ADLER: Who says there isn't community in New York City, at least through September 7th.

Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.

(Soundbite of song "Let the Sun Shine In")

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