Hair

Hair. "The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical," with book by the US writers Gerome Ragni and James Rado, music by Galt MacDermot. Establishing a new style for musicals and spawning several imitators, Hair reflected the concerns of the hippie culture in North America during the 1960s.

Hair

Hair. "The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical," with book by the US writers Gerome Ragni and James Rado, music by Galt MacDermot. Establishing a new style for musicals and spawning several imitators, Hair reflected the concerns of the hippie culture in North America during the 1960s. An off-Broadway production opened 29 Oct 1967 at the New York Shakespearean Festival Public Theatre. After some revision, which virtually eliminated the plot line, Hair opened 28 Apr 1968 at the Biltmore Theatre on Broadway and closed 1 Jul 1972, 1,729 performances later. The stage director was Tom O'Horgan, the music director MacDermot. The Montreal singer Allan Nichols was among the leads 1969-71.

A Toronto production at the Royal Alexandra Theatre ran from 29 Dec 1969 to 3 Jan 1971 with a cast that included, collectively, Terrence Black, Gale Garnett, Tobi Lark, Mary Ann MacDonald, and Colleen Peterson. ln Montreal Hair was translated into French by Gratien Gélinas and Gil Courtemanche for a production that starred François Guy, Marie-Louise Dion, and Sebastien. Opening 22 Sep 1970 at the Comédie-Canadienne, the brief run alternated French- and English-language performances. The score was published in Canada by G.V. Thompson.

By late 1970, eight other productions of Hair had been staged in North America and 19 overseas. A cast recording of the Broadway production (RCA LSO-1150) exceeded $1 million in US sales - DisinHAIRited, an original cast album of songs deleted from the off-Broadway production, was also issued by RCA (LSO-1163) - and Hair received a Grammy composer's award in 1968 for best score from an original-cast show album. Productions in England, Germany, France, Sweden, Japan, Israel, Holland, and Australia were also recorded, as were more than 1,000 vocal and/or instrumental performances of individual songs from Hair. A medley of "Aquarius" and "Let the Sunshine In" was a major hit in 1969 as recorded by the Fifth Dimension, as were "Easy to Be Hard" and "Hair," as recorded by Three Dog Night and the Cowsills, respectively. "Good Morning, Starshine" was made popular by Oliver the same year.

Continued Popularity after the 1970s

The topicality of the book inevitably made it seem dated, and a revival in 1977 at the Biltmore Theatre, New York, was only moderately successful. However, a feature-length movie was released in 1979 (rereleased on video in 1999), and a cast recording was issued by United Artists (CBL2-3274). A production of Hair presented 14-16 Nov 1985 at The Spectrum in Montreal was reportedly the 70th mounted on a professional basis. A twentieth-anniversary edition of the original soundtrack was issued in 1999 (07863-67812-2 RCA). The musical was revived in St. Louis 2000-1, and concert versions were staged in Los Angeles and New York in 2001, the latter supervised by MacDermot. The musical was revived again on Broadway at the Al Hirschfeld Theater 31 Mar 2009 starring Hamilton, Ontario actress Caissie Levy.

Owing to the universality of its pacifist theme and the parallels that can be drawn between the Vietnam and later wars, the musical remains a favourite production for high schools and universities. A successful and long-running adaptation, Hair Sarajevo, AD 1992, was staged in Sarajevo as an appeal for peace. MacDermot and Rado added songs to their original musical through the 1990s. Credited with being Broadway's first rock musical, Hair was the precursor for such later musicals as Rent.


Further Reading

  • Horn, Barbara Lee. The Age of Hair: Evolution and Impact of Broadway's First Rock Musical (Connecticut 1991)

    Miller, Scott. Let the Sun Shine In: The Genius of Hair (Portsmouth, New Hampshire 2003)

    "Will Swenson will forgo the Rialto staging of 'Rock of Ages' to reprise his role in Hair on Broadway . . . . ," Daily Variety, vol 302, no 21, 30 Jan 2009

    "Ontario actress nabs lead role in Hair Broadway revival," CBC News, 31 Jan 2009