HAIR, the American Tribal Love Rock Musical, made its world premiere 49 years ago today. To honor that milestone, here are…
21 Things You Should Know About HAIR!
1. HAIR premiered Off-Broadway at Joseph Papp’s Public Theater on October 17, 1967, and ran for a limited engagement of six weeks.
3. Rado said, “There was so much excitement in the streets and the parks and the hippie areas, and we thought if we could transmit this excitement to the stage it would be wonderful…. We hung out with them and went to their Be-Ins [and] let our hair grow.”
4. Show biz agent Nat Shapiro introduced Rado and Ragni to Canadian composer Galt MacDermot, who wrote the show’s score. MacDermot had won a Grammy Award in 1961 for “African Waltz,” recorded by Cannonball Adderley.
5. Galt MacDermot lived in contrast to his co-creators: “I had short hair, a wife and, at that point, four children, and I lived on Staten Island,” he said. “I never even heard of a hippie when I met Rado and Ragni.”
6. Rado and Ragni would write lyrics and send them to MacDermot, who wrote the music independently. MacDermot wrote the first score in just three weeks! That first batch of songs included “Hair,” “I Got Life,” “Ain’t Got No” and “Where Do I Go?”
7. After the Off-Broadway run, HAIR played at The Cheetah, a nightclub at 53rd Street and Broadway, where it ran for 45 performances.
8. After closing at the Cheetah, HAIR was completely overhauled for its Broadway opening three months later. The creative team added thirteen new songs(!) including “Let the Sun Shine In,” which was added so to make the ending more uplifting.
9. Experimental director Tom O’Horgan was hired for the Broadway production. With years of experience at La MaMa, he had been the authors’ first choice to direct the Public Theater production, but he was unavailable at the time.
10. HAIR opened on Broadway at the Biltmore Theatre on April 11, 1968. The Broadway production was a smash, running for 1,750 performances.
11. Though HAIR is notorious for its brief nude scene, the show had no nudity in its first two productions (at the Public and the Cheetah). Just before the Broadway run, though, Rado and Ragni witnessed Central Park protesters spontaneously stripping naked. They immediately decided that nudity was essential to express the defiance and freedom of the characters in their show.
12. Many notable performers appeared in HAIR: The original cast included Diane Keaton and Melba Moore, and subsequent cast members included Keith Carradine, Kay Cole, Ted Lange (“Isaac” on The Love Boat), Heather MacRae, Meat Loaf, Dale Soules, Vicki Sue Robinson, and Ben Vereen — in his Broadway debut!
13. Billed as “The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical,” HAIR established the genre of Rock Musical, a mantle carried by shows as diverse as JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, RENT, and HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH.
14. In 1969, songs from HAIR reached numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 on the Billboard Top 40. (“Aquarius/ Let The Sunshine In” by The Fifth Dimension reached #1; “Hair” by The Cowsills reached #2; “Good Morning Starshine” by Oliver reached #3; and “Easy To Be Hard” by Three Dog Night reached #4.)
15. The Fifth Dimension’s recording of “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” was the number 1 song in the world in 1969.
16. During HAIR’s Broadway run, nine productions of the show played simultaneously in other US cities. At one point, there were 19 productions running worldwide.
17. The London production opened on September 27, 1968, led by the same creative team as the Broadway production. The original London tribe included Richard O’Brien and Tim Curry, who later collaborated on THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW.
18. The London production ran for 1,997 performances. (It was forced to close when the roof of the theatre collapsed in July of 1973.)
20. The 2009 Broadway revival of HAIR, directed by Diane Paulus and featuring Gavin Creel, Will Swenson, Caissie Levy and Sasha Allen, won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.
21. HAIR remains one of the most popular shows in the world. Claude, Berger and the Tribe continue to revel in regional, community, college and even high school theater productions.
Happy Anniversary, HAIR! Let the Sun Shine…