“Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical” (book and lyrics James Rado and Gerome Ragni, music, Galt MacDermot) is a classic work about American “hippie anti-war counterculture” as well as the ensuing sexual and cultural exploratory freedoms circa 1967.
“You could read about… these young passionate draft-resisters… but you’d never experience it. This was happening in the streets, and we wanted to bring it to the stage,” said co-creator James Rado.
“Hair…” debuted October 1967 at Joseph Papp’s Public Theater in New York City’s East Village and enjoyed a long Broadway run as well as international touring companies.
The script was revamped several times incorporating theatrical influences from Open Theatre and LaMaMa’s Experimental Theatre with Tom O’Horgan’s directing, described as “sensual, savage…it disintegrates verbal structure, often breaks up narrative (and even character) among different actors… enjoying sensory bombardment…” (Newsweek).
O’Horgan added a brief nudity scene, historically-based on incidents in Central Park, NYC where people were stripping in defiance of the war.
This was portrayed with dignity, in low light, in Majestic Repertory’s production under Troy Heard’s accurate direction.
This script was a true groundbreaker in that it brought to mainstream America’s attention the vibrant daring thinking, expressing, resisting, experimenting and collaborating that was burgeoning right underneath uptight, mostly conservative, America’s collective upturned nose.
“HAIR…” captures the clash of cultures that was the extraordinary “year of the barricades” (Caute) that would culminate ultimately in necessary advances in racial harmony, work opportunity equality, and political activism that directly ended a mindless war-conflict that raged aimlessly against a non-existent threat — chewing up and spitting out our youth — as it dragged on, without any end in sight, or victory of any kind.
One of the more memorable lines comes from tribe-member “Hud,” (Sloan Hixson) “The draft is white people, sending black people, to make war on yellow people, to defend land they stole, from red people!”
“Berger” (Richie Villafuerte) as the commune’s leader, embodies the playful, sardonic, enlightened part of the tribe.
“Claude” (Bobby Lang) represents the dichotomy of youthful playfulness versus growing into responsibilities imposed by the prevailing war-madness. Ultimately he pays for that with his life, shot several times in the war.
“Sheila” (Katie Marie Jones) portrays the bravery of free speech protest — laced with subtle sensuality that emerges from confidence.
“Woof” (Marcus Carter) portrays the new freedom to express ideas and body desires that at that time were considered hush-hush.
“Jeannie” (Almog Aybar Agron) is the embodiment of fecund innocence bearing her child with pride and participating fully in the circle’s adventures.
These six primary characters are supported by four more character-variations on these thematic-imperatives, as well as, a chorus of 12 more competent and compelling “tribe members.”
All are countered by the “Elders” who represent the previous generation’s “mind-controlled submission” to the stagnant, costly, suppressive status-quo.
This is all threaded together with many songs including, “Let the Sun Shine In,” and “Aquarius,” which became anthems of the anti-Vietnam War and peace movements, and were hits on national popular music stations.
However, “Hair’s” daring themes and staging would take until 2009 to win both Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for best (revival of) a musical.
Majestic’s costumes (Cari Byers) were very well done with every 60’s variant represented in lush colors and textures, all authentic. (Look at the Broadway cast 1969 and compare — these are better!)
Sound (Joey Jevine) works well in this full-circle seating (which augments the inclusiveness theme) with a fantastic live band off stage (Musical Director Laurence Sobel). Lines are clear and unmiked, adding to the intimacy. Songs are performed with handheld mike requiring tricky balance with the band.
The cast and house crew are welcoming and it’s a great experience.
This is one classic seminal work (and joyful “human-be-in”) you will want to catch, 50 years later, through August 27 by Majestic (majesticrepertory.com)at their temporary home, state-of-the-art “The Space,” located off Harmon and Polaris at 3460 Cavaretta Court. (Their regular location is Main at Charleston currently under renovation.) Ample free guided parking across the street.
You are a product of these times and evermore we need courage and inspiration. Their season will include classics “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Animal Farm,” and several more!