With all this talk about the Summer of Love – it was 40 years ago, in case you hadn’t noticed – I’ve been thinking about the musical Hair, which, not so coincidentally, is also celebrating its 40th birthday this year (as am I, but why dwell on such a depressing statistic).
“The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical,” as it was known, is a distinct product of its time. The score by James Rado (book/lyrics), Gerome Ragni (book/lyrics) and Galt MacDermot (music) feels more authentically show tune than it does rock, which is probably why I enjoy it so much, but it sure doesn’t sound like other shows of its era: Kander and Ebb’s The Happy Time, Bacharach and David’s Promises, Promises (which includes my favorite overture of all time) and Sherman Edwards’ 1776.
There’s something a little quaint about Hair now, especially its Act 1 finale, which takes place in dim light as most of the cast disrobes. Naked hippies, it turns out, are cute. Not rebellious, not edgy, not counter-culture. Cute.
Bay Area audiences can see a cleaned-up, no-nudity Hair (pictured below) on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County as the Mountain Play, the official harbinger of the summer theater season in these parts, “mounts” the musical. For information, visit www.mountainplay.org.
If you’re in New York in late summer, the Public Theater, the original producer of the musical in its 1967 off-Broadway run, is putting on a concert version in Central Park in mid- to late September. Visit www.publictheater.org for information.
And if you want to reacquaint yourself with the score, I highly recommend the Actors Fund of America benefit recording featuring an all-star cast including Charles Busch, Raul Esparza, Lea DeLaria, Harvey Fierstein, Lillias White, Billy Porter, Sheri Rene Scott, Adam Pascal, Ledisi, Ana Gasteyer and Jennifer Hudson. The album is available on iTunes or at Sh-k-Boom Records.
So why no 40th anniversary Broadway production? There have been attempts in recent years to revive Hair on Broadway, but the surviving creators (Ragni died in 1991) can’t seem to agree on what the production should be — what, if any, of the seemingly constant revisions over the years should be incorporated, etc. It seems if there ever were a time for a Hair revival, what with the 40th anniversary of the musical and the Summer of Love and the fact that we’re a country at war, this would be it. Missed opportunity.