10,000 Celebrate Hair's Birthday in Park
by George Gent
The New York Times - April 27, 1970

A warm Sunday afternoon, azure skies and the rocking rhythms from hair, the love-rock musical that ushered in the Age of Aquarius, combined yesterday to attract 10,000 people to Central Park's Mall for the show's second anniversary party.

Most in the crowd arrived almost an hour ahead of the 2 P.M. starting time, drawn by taped recordings of the show and ads in local newspapers (click here to see the ad). There were long-haired boys and girls in striped bell-bottom pants, high school youngsters in starched blouses and skirts, young marrieds with babies and children carrying balloons.  Those few who came late climbed near by trees to watch cast members - past and present - perform hit songs from the show as well as some of their own compositions.

On the outskirts of the crowd, where the performers could no longer be seen, family groups squatted and lolled listening to the music.  There were "dog" people, "bicycle" people, and "picnic" people.  Hot-dog vendors served lines of 20 and 30.  There was some marijuana being smoked and some people were passing joints around.

At the southern end of the mall, the Burning City Theater, a mendicant theatrical troupe, performed a piece about a boy who is drafted into the army.

And on the mall, Paul Kaplin, a 21-year-old student from the Manns College of Music, twanged, sang, and played Bob Dylan songs next to a sign saying "Help Put Me Through College".  Mr. Kaplin said that the highest take for a Sunday so far has been $89.  The vibrations from the band shell amplifiers interfered somewhat with his unamplified music, but he said it had no cut into his receipts.

The Hair birthday concert, which was paid for by the show's producer, Michael Butler, began with the audience singing "Happy Birthday" to the waving cast.  From there on the decibel count soared.

There were songs by Hair regulars Charlie Brown, the lead guitarist; Bert Sommer, Sally Eaton, Fluffer, Joan Johnson, Robin McNamara, and James rado and Gerome ragni, the musical's authors and lyricists, who have returned to the cast for Wednesday and Saturday matinees.

Oliver, the recording start who popularized "Good Morning Starshine" sang the hit along with several of his own compositions.  Heather MacRae, who has left the show, teamed with Oatis Stephens, a cast member, to sing "Rocky Racoon.  Shelley Winters, the stage and movie star, wished the cast a happy birthday.

The crowd was quiet and orderly throughout most of the 2-hour and 20-minute performance, despite repeated requests from the cast to join in the singing.

With the finale, however, all restraint vanished.  As the cast ran through the show's hit tunes - Hair, I Got Life, and Prisoners In Niggertown - the enthusiasm grew until it gripped the audience.  Then, as though on signal, the crowd stood for a rousing rendition of Let The Sun Shine In and began to weave and rock as each chorus grew louder.  In the midst of the crowd, hundreds raised fingers in V signs and the cast responded by throwing flowers into the audience.

The end was symbolic.  The show, which began as an Off Broadway presentation by two not well-known writers and a composer - galt MacDermot - has overcome all but a few hurdles to become one of America's most successful musicals.  It began it's odyssey on October 17, 1967 under the aegis of the new York Shakespeare festival Public Theater, where it ran for eight weeks before moving to  the Cheetah, a discotheque.  It's Broadway run began April 29, 1968, at the Biltmore Theatre, where it has been selling out ever since.

Produced at a cost of $150,000, Hair, and properties related to it, had brought it's backers a profit of $2,098,000 by the end of March.  The weekly profit is $310,000 and the gross in New York alone in the two year run has been $7-million.

Later yesterday, a group of people tried to crash a party held for the Hair cast and invited guests at the Four Seasons restaurant, 99 East 52d Street, to demand bail for the Black Panthers who were convicted Thursday for the murder of an East bronx man last year.  The police were called and 13 persons, including james Rado, co-author of Hair, were arrested.  Mr. rado was charged with disorderly conduct and possession of narcotics; 10 men with criminal trespass and possession of drugs, and two teen-aged girls with criminal trespass.

Copyright The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.

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