In this lesson, you will learn about the musical: Hair. When you think of Hippies (not hipsters) and protesting the ~’Establishment~’, this is the groovy musical for you.
A Show Like No Other
Transcendental meditation on the ocean of cyber reality is Love..
.Liberation… These opening lines of Hair sum up the spirit of the show that introduced the ‘rock musical’ to the world.Hair was one of the first rock musicals, not only because of the energetic rhythms of the music, but because a true rock voice was needed to perform it. This was a style that not every Broadway-trained actor could pull off.
The show was also among the first to use hand-held microphones, so every performer would be clearly heard throughout the theater. This practice has never gone away, although the microphones are now wearable devices instead of being held or on a stand.Not only did its style make Hair unique but also its controversial approach to hot button topics of the day – 1967 – like free love and equal rights for those of all races and sexual orientation.
The events and ideologies of Hair mirror what was happening in the US at that time. Characters used drugs and profanity, disrespected the US flag, and the play even contained a nude scene. Many people were anti-establishment, actively opposing mainstream political, social, and/or economic values. They protested the Vietnam War and believed in free love. If they had had social media apps, Twitter and Facebook would have blown up!The musical opened on Broadway in April of 1968 at the Biltmore Theater in New York City and ran for 1,750 performances. The duo of Gerome Ragni and James Rado wrote the lyrics and book and performed as the leads.
Galt MacDermot composed the music. The show was nominated for Best Musical at the Tony Awards in 1969. It did not win; however, the 2009 production won the Tony for Best Revival.
In 1979, a movie was made of Hair.
‘Claude’ is a young man about to be drafted and presumably sent to the war in Vietnam. He is intelligent and mindful of his own limitations. He is born under the defiant sign of Aquarius. While Claude is adopted into the Tribe seems to enjoy the culture, he eventually decides the counter-culture life is not for him and joins the military.
‘Berger’ is a leader of the Tribe and a social activist. He is a good friend of Claude’s and a free spirit. Berger is a bit of a showman, corralling the others to do what he wants. He likes to lead the Tribe in various anti-establishment pursuits such as protests, drug use and going against the expectation of society during that time.’Sheila’ is a New York University student and political activist.
Sheila is in love with Berger, who does not return her feelings. Although she is fierce in her views about politics and societal issues, she is easily manipulated by her attraction for Berger.
The subtitle of Hair is The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. Hair is about a group of flower children, known as the Tribe, in New York’s East Village. They emulate Native American tribes by living close to the Earth, living in a natural way, and making their own music, art and culture. They question authority and the society they are living in. They seek to find a new way of living and to change the world.
They gather to welcome the new astrological age, the Age of Aquarius, an age of rule breaking, defiance of authority and higher-minded consciousness.Friends Claude and Berger resist Claude’s draft notice for the Vietnam War. If he goes into the military, he will almost certainly go to the war-torn country. The Tribe holds an anti-establishment rally, following which Sheila arrives.
Claude is madly in love with her, but it is one-sided. Sheila loves Berger and attempts several times to buy his love with gifts and promises, even promising (but then refusing) to seduce Claude as a favor. She has a change of heart and tells Claude about the plan.At the ‘Be In’, Berger and Sheila hold a draft-card burning party.
Claude is the last one to throw his into the fire, but withdraws it at the last minute with a change of heart. He has reconciled himself to enter the military. The Tribe plans a send off. In the end, Claude enters the stage in his military uniform.
The Tribe sings ‘Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine In)’ as his presence is unnoticed. They then part to reveal Claude in his uniform lying on a black cloth.
There are many memorable songs in this rock score, such as ‘Aquarius,’ ‘Good Morning, Starshine,’ ‘The Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine In),’ ‘Easy to Be Hard’ and the title song ~Hair.’ Many of the songs have been covered by Sarah Brightman, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross and numerous other individuals and groups. Ragni, Rado, and MacDermot won a Grammy Award for Best Score from an Original Cast Show Album.
The musical Hair has many motifs and themes, including acceptance of all people no matter their circumstances. Hair was like no other show of its time because of the taboo topics it addressed, like drugs, sex, protest, and the racial integration. It helped create a new type of Broadway show based on a rock-music aesthetic. It also brought many songs into the popular standards of musical theater.