With unpopular wars still raging and the forces of conformism still oppressing the free spirits in American society, HAIR remains a vital expression of irrepressible & joyous Be-In for all times. It is one of my favorite musicals & the film version is in my Top 10 Films.
I saw the original Broadway production, then in its 4th year, I saw the West End production in 1969 & oddly enough, the Vienna production- Haare. The Original Broadway Cast album sold more than 3 million copies in the first year, at the time a phenomenon.
As far as I am concerned, HAIR was the first Rock Musical. Although it had received generally good critical notices off-Broadway, at the Biltmore Theater it got almost unanimous raves, with Clive Barnes of the NY Times championing it all the way. Barnes: “HAIR is the first Broadway musical in some time to have the authentic voice of today rather than the day before yesterday.”
6 months after the Broadway opening, a new company was formed in L.A.. L.A. HAIR settled down in the Aquarius Theater there for a 2 year run, the longest run of any show in L.A. Mae West came to the show & exclaimed: "My, you boys certainly have a lot of energy!"
On Broadway, the show ran 4 years at the Biltmore Theatre, & in London 5 years at the Shaftesbury Theatre in the West End. Eventually there were an unheard of, 9 companies in the USA. The talent was recruited from each city. The show played simultaneously in NYC, L.A., San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Seattle, Boston, & Baltimore, in addition there were national touring companies.
The Broadway production was directed by Tom O'Horgan, & choreographed by Julie Arenal, with set design by Robin Wagner, costume design by Nancy Potts, & lighting design by Jules Fisher. The original Broadway "tribe" included authors Rado & Ragni, who played the lead roles of Claude & Berger, respectively, with Lynn Kellogg as Sheila, Lamont Washington as Hud, Sally Eaton & Shelley Plimpton reprising their off-Broadway roles as Jeanie & Crissy, Melba Moore as Dion, Paul Jabara & Diane Keaton (both Moore & Keaton later played Sheila). Among the performers who appeared in Hair during its original Broadway: Ben Vereen, Keith Carradine, Barry McGuire, Ted Lange, Meat Loaf, Kenny Seymour (of Little Anthony & The Imperials), Joe Butler (of the Lovin' Spoonful), Heather MacRae (daughter of Gordon MacRae), Vicki Sue Robinson.
HAIR was nominated for Best Musical & Best Director at the Tony Awards, but lost out to 1776 in both categories.The production ran for 1,750 performances, closing on July 1, 1972, officially the end of the 1960s.
There was a decision to do the show in the local language of each country at a time when for productions of Broadway shows were always done in English. The translations followed the original script closely, & the Broadway staging & choreography were used. Each script contained various local references, such as street names & the names or depictions of local politicians & celebrities. The original international productions included tribes in: France, Germany (with Donna Summer as Dione), Mexico, Italy, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Switzerland, Vienna, Tokyo, Montreal, Sydney ( 6 African-Americans were brought to Australia to provide a racially integrated tribe),Sônia Braga appeared in the 1969 Brazilian production. Yugoslavia was the first HAIR to be produced in a communist country.
By 1970, HAIR was a huge financial success, the various productions of the show were raking in almost $1 million every 10 days, & royalties were being collected for 300 different recordings of the show's songs, making it the most successful score in history as well as the most performed score ever written for the Broadway stage. So much for the counter-culture.
HAIR is a musical celebration of life, a love letter to freedom, & a passionate plea for hope & change. It is the story of a group of friends who struggle to balance their young lives, loves, & the sexual revolution with their rebellion against war, their conservative parents, & society. In the waning days of their adolescence, and on the brink of adulthood, they are angry, hostile, confused, frightened of how the future is going to change them & of not knowing what comes next. They choose to speak up & sing out in celebration of peace, love, freedom, happiness & life.
The first great rock musical, HAIR has a score I have not tired of in 44 years of listening, with some of the most soulful songs ever written for the stage including: Let the Sunshine In, Easy To Be Hard, Good Morning Starshine, Aquarius,& the hirsute title song. I never was in a production of HAIR, damn it, & now I don’t have any. In fact, with no hair on my head & biting at the ass of 60 years old, I am listening to the Original Broadway Cast of HAIR this very afternoon, while enjoying a joint & hoping for peace & understanding.