April 29, 2023 will mark the 55th anniversary of the opening of the original Broadway production of HAIR, the American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. When the show opened at the Biltmore Theatre, it changed the face of the American musical theatre forever.
With Book and Lyrics by James Rado (deceased June 2022) and Gerome Ragni (deceased July 1991), music by Galt MacDermot (deceased December 2018), and directed by Tom O’Horgan (Deceased January 2009), the show ran for 1,750 performances, closing on July 2, 1972. Produced by the late Michael Butler, the show earned Tony Award nominations for Best Direction and Best Musical.
The original cast included James Rado, Gerome Ragni, Steve Curry, Ronald Dyson, Sally Eaton, Leata Galloway, Steve Gamet, Walter Harris, Paul Jabara, Diane Keaton, Lynn Kellogg, Jonathan Kramer, Emmaretta Marks, Melba Moore, Shelley Plimpton, Lamont Washington, Donnie Burks, Lorrie Davis, Hiram Keller, Marjorie Lipari, Natalie Mosco, Suzanna Norstrand and Robert I Rubinsky.
The production had scenic design by Robin Wagner, costume design by Nancy Potts, lighting design by Jules Fisher with dance direction by Julie Arenal.
James Rado (center) as Claude in the original Broadway production of HAIR 1968-Photo by Dagmar
In October, 1967, HAIR opened as the inaugural production of Joseph Papp’s new New York Shakespeare Festival, The Public Theater. After a short stint at the Cheetah nightclub in December 1967, HAIR was transformed for Broadway, with a new director (O’Horgan) and cast, and a radically-revised script that included 13 new songs.
HAIR set precedents in many ways at the time.
Although rock ‘n’ roll was dominating the charts, many in the Broadway establishment insisted that ear-splitting popular music could never work in the dramatic context of a musical. Set to prove them wrong, Rado and Ragni began writing HAIR in 1964. Rado, Ragni and MacDermot kept the volume up and called their show a “happening” and its cast a “tribe.”
HAIR’s aura of peace, love, freedom and psychedelic magic is as relevant today as it was 55 years ago and continues to speak to new generations and audiences around the globe.
Featured Photo: Gerome Ragni (L), Galt MacDermot (C), James Rado (R) c1968 Photo by Marc B. Weiss