To see the photos that accompanied this article click
"Hair is here! hair is beautiful!" exclaimed two groupies waiting in front of the box office of the Biltmore Theatre in New York along with other hopefuls trying for an early shot at getting tickets for the smash hit Broadway musical. When Hair opened on Broadway, however, advance sales were about enough to get the show going. But times indeed are a changin', for now it's not unusual to see lines forming at the box office at 4 a.m.
The success of this American tribal love-rock musical is hardly confined to manhattan. Currently running is a production at the Aquarius Theater in Los Angeles, whose front displays a mind blowing mural painted by the Fool. What's more, London, Paris, Dusseldorf, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Sydney, Australia also have companies playing to capacity audiences. But that's not all for this colorful rock-odyssey of the century. San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto, and Tokyo will soon be invaded by the love people of Hair.
In case you haven't heard by now, hair is a happening, featuring an array of long hairs shouting and singing on everything and anything from pro-marijuana to anti-war songs. The language is strong, colorful, and total. Yes, members of the cast do occasionally use naughty words, and for one ecstatic moment of esthetic revolt, take off all their clothes, if they so wish. Obscene? No! The naked body can never be obscene. Revolutionary? Yes! For already a string of Broadway, off broadway and film productions have followed baring the altogether.
But Hair is more than just a phenomenon, it's already an institution. It's original cast album was No. 1, destined to become the biggest seller of all time, and four of its songs, "Aquarius", "Let The Sun Shine In", "Hair", and "Good Morning Starshine" have graced the Top 10.
How did it all begin? It was back in the early part of 1967 that two disreputable looking characters named Gerome Ragni and James Rado walked into the office of music expert Nat Shapiro, carrying a withered briefcase filled with notes and drawings on brown paper bags, napkins, and old envelopes, which, when pieced together, turned out to be the first draft of hair. They and their work were dedicated to the philosophy of non-violence, love, exploration of the senses, and a demonstrative rejection of materialism. Their first concern was finding a suitable composer.
Shapiro, inspired to say the least by their creative effort, introduced them to Galt MacDermot, a square-looking Staten Island, New York resident with four children, who somehow understood and loved the kind of music they were seeking. Within 36 hours he had completed six songs and come up with a thousand ideas. Within four days the show had been completed and was ready for a producer.
Hair began making the rounds, but no one knew what to do with a free-style, 25-character folk-rock-oriented musical about a tribe of lovable kids who smoke pot, burn their draft cards and trade their chicks. Jerome Robbins, with whom Ragni had been studying and working, loved it, but was too busy. A few other producers and directors were intrigued but unconvinced that it could be commercially practical. Some were offended by its four-letter words and others by it's violent put-down of the establishment.
Then along came Joseph Papp, who chose Hair as a vehicle to launch his partially subsidized New York Shakespeare Festival at the downtown Public theater. It opened for a limited eight-week engagement and was an immediate sell-out, but it soon had nowhere to go.
Michael Butler, a young, attractive, energetic, resourceful Chicago millionaire, was turned on by the show and then fell hopelessly in love. He was determined to keep it alive.
Hair was moved lock, stock and props to Cheetah, a mid-town discotecque, which, it developed, was in a building about to be torn down. It looked like it would again be cut off in its prime.
Butler then took over completely, buying the rights from Papp, allowing the authors to revise the work without any restriction, and bringing in Tom O'Horgan to enlarge the show's scope and give it a new dimension. Soon Hair was firmly transplanted at the Biltmore theatre on Broadway. That the night would prove historic was something no one at the time could predict. But the reviews quickly confirmed that Hair was indeed a milestone in the American musical theater and that Broadway would never quite again be the same.
Since then, Hair has indeed become an international institution. It is on its way to breaking every known box office record in the cities its now playing in.
Yearly grosses are topping $18,000,000, making it the most successful production in the history of the stage. New productions keep springing up around the world and several film companies have already bid over $1,000,000 for the movie rights.
Many single artists in Hair have emerged in their own right. Here are some of them:
Bert Sommer signed into the opening cast of the Los Angeles company of Hair the same week he signed to record for Capitol Records. That was last November and right after the opening in California he moved back to New York to complete his album, "The Road To Travel"....and joined the New York company as part of the Tribe. In a few months he had worked his way up to playing Woof. Firmly entrenched in his New York apartment, Bert has used the relative security of the show to further his singing, modeling, and song writing careers.
Bert's long and very wild hair has always attracted attention. Now when he walks the streets of New York, and hostile people say "Look at the freak....you must be in Hair", Bert's answer is "Right, and you'll pay eleven dollars a ticket to watch me in it."
Heather MacRae was brought up in a musical-theatrical family and has experience in stock productions. She appeared on several television specials with her parents, Gordon and Sheila MacRae, and with them played club dates at both Los Angeles' Cocoanut (sic) Grove and in Las Vegas. Through it all, she mixed her on-the-job training with healthy doses of schooling in the entertainment field.
Heather made her first Broadway appearance in "Here's Where I Belong" where she proved herself to be an important talent, both vocally and dramatically. Though she did not create the role of Sheila in Hair, Heather has ably imbued the part with a character that is so strong as to transcend both herself and the part as previously played.
Allan Nicholls was an established star in Canada with writing credits including eight hit records with his group, The Carnival Connection, two film scores and a series of national television shows. He left Montreal to try to do as well in New York. Within two months of his arrival he had been auditioned and hired for Hair. Within sixty days he was understudy to practically every male role in the show, and when the role of Claude came open, Allan got the Broadway break everyone dreams about. He did the show....and got the part full time. As star of the show, Allan has a nice spot to work from. He recently signed with Avco-Embassy Records, the new label owned by film producer, Joseph E. Levine.
Copyright Circus Magazine.