The explicit display of drug use, impertinence for the national flag and an unequivocal projection of nudity brought forward innumerable criticism on this “rock musical” Hair. It broke several records in the musical theatre and won acclaim too. The storyline focuses on “tribe” a group of long haired social activists who stand head to head against the eruption of Vietnamese war.
Making its debut in Broadway in 1968, the show produced 1,750 performances while its growing popularity went across United States and Europe in a short span of time. The show made noteworthy appearance in London with 1,997 performances. With the songs reaching up to top 10 and the feature film releasing to score more popularity, the musical still remained a die-heart favorite for the audience. Year 2009 emerged as a revival of the musical as the sturdy reviews earned Hair with Drama Desk Award and the prestigious Tony Award too.
Hair has an autobiographical tone as James Rado and Gerome Ragni conceived themselves as major characters of the musical. The inspiration came from the street people with an amalgamation of the imagination. Usually the school kids of the East Village are pronounced with the verdict of dropping out of the school as they grow their hair long. These bunches of kids have their own hippie community with a lot of excitement in their lives. This hippie activity became an inspiration for Rado and Ragni to be displayed on stage. This real life activity was a great hit as it reached the stage.
On the initial disclosure of the play to the Broadway producers, much rejection and disapproval was received. New York Shakespeare Festival activist, Joe Papp finally accepted it as a challenge to show it at Public Theatre which was then under-construction. With the debut performances at the Public Theatre, Hair went on for one and a half month with great appreciation from the audience. Later a promising businessman Michael Butler saw spark in the musical as he himself was working on the anti-war platform for U.S senate. Hair came to him as an opportunity worth going for and thus Butler and Papp took Hair at The Cheetah in 1967. The show knew no bounds and went beyond expectations, running for over 40 productions. After the closing of the show at The Cheetah and opening at the Broadway, the show went through an overhauling to give a sparkling touch to the theatre productions. Tom’O Horgan, the inspirational director brought nudity and spontaneity in the actors to give it a real life act. For this controversial act, Papp declined to be the part of the show and thus withdrew his participation, however Butler took the show forward and through his political influence succeeded in producing the show at Biltmore Theatre Broadway. The musical ran many simultaneous shows during the Broadway display. Butler had the motive to convey the signal of ending the Vietnam War to the public. Thus it turned out to be the most pragmatic anti-war statement. With the staging of over 19 productions outside North America, Hair proved itself as one of the strongest financial victory by 1970.
The reference to Native Americans displays anti-civilization and naturalism that is the key element to the hippie community. The word “tribe” is adopted through the inherent culture of North American population thus developing more similarity with the society. The notorious and extremely controversial display of nudity became the topic of discussion amongst the masses. Miller defends it by proclaiming it as the “hippie culture” and an ingrained flaunt of freedom, spirituality, naturalism and honesty. According to Miller, the naked body has to be exposed to be appreciated rather than to be covered and disparaged. During the production of the musical, the characters made use of various legal and illegal drugs, even the songs also list such drugs. Other recurrent themes in the musical include pacifism, religion and even astrology. The musical also has a resonance with Shakespeare’s classics especially Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet. Last scenes of both Hamlet and Hair are very much alike where Claude finally appears as a spirit all clad in army uniform.
In 2009, the Broadway production reopened the musical for its revival at Gielgud Theatre at West End London. The musical is also expected to perform at Delhi, India for Common Wealth Games 2010. Although very few theatrical productions are staged at India, yet this one has its own public appeal. Go grab your share of fun with Hair Tickets on sale!
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