I enjoyed my first copy of the original cast album of “Hair: The American Tribal Love Rock Musical” so much, that I completely wore out the record’s grooves. It was the only way I could enjoy the musical’s performance.
I was only a high school sophomore on the day that “Hair” opened at the Biltmore Theatre on Broadway, April 29, 1968. Even before it’s opening there, “Hair” had gained notoriety in the press as a smash hit off-Broadway.
Hair appealed to many of us baby boomers on many levels. There were many areas in modern society that seemed harmful (and still do). Among the major problems were: war, violence at home, poverty, political corruption, technological depersonalization, sexual repression, sexism, racism, and environmental degradation. The story tells of how hippies wanted to save America from itself. They were the true patriots. The badge of long hair was their flag.
There is much to say about the drama and its representation of 1960s youth culture. It was a reacton to the restricting mores of consumerism and staid civilization. It was one of the most controversial musicals of all time. The production company was charged with obscene language and nudity.
The finale of Act I was the very first time a Broadway show had presented totally naked actors and actresses. The much publicized nude scene was all of 20-seconds long. Nudity was optional for the cast. The actors stood motionless and nude with their bodies bathed in a light projection of psychedelic styled flower patterns. The singers chanted, “beads, flowers, freedom, and happiness.”
That short, dimly lit scene caused negative, sometimes violent reactions when the show toured the hinterlands. It prompted one cast member to quip that the expression of mankind’s natural clothingless state is more shocking than the mass-murder of war.
The American public was first introduced to the phenomenon of “Hair” through the Cowsills’ cover of “Hair” and a cover version by “The 5th Dimension” of “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In”.
Co-writer James Rado integrated the astrology and cosmic concepts into the show after researching his own astrological makeup. The production even had its own astrologer, she was consulted about casting. Sheila was to be played by a Libra or Capricorn. The character of Berger was to be portrayed by a Leo.
The date of the premier, 45 years ago from today was picked because of its auspicious aspects. Pluto, Uranus, and Jupiter in the tenth house made for a unique, powerful, prosperous show. Neptune, in the first house, was attributed for the sexual reputation of the program. Because the moon was “high”, popular acclaim would be the result.
Indeed the show remains one of the most successful musicals in history. There are countless revivals of “Hair” in contemporary theatre. The experimental techniques that “Hair” brought to staging techniques have influenced most Broadway and non-Broadway plays and musicals around the world since 1968.
The social expressions and artifacts of the program are still reflected in today’s relaxed wardrobe ideas, especially blue jeans and worker inspired popular attire.
“Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical” original stage play and song lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni. Music by Galt MacDermot.
The Blue Jay of Happiness can’t get Oliver’s version of “Good Morning Starshine” out of his mind.