In 1968, Hair was a cause for celebration in the theatre, it brought new voices -- younger voices -- to the Broadway stage, speaking about their concerns with the society they lived in. The youth of the late 1960s were reacting against the values and moral precepts of the generations before them, and Hair embodied that frustration, that passion and that reaction and brought it to the Broadway stage. It was a Broadway musical for a younger generation, by the younger generation.
Now, 30 years later, Hair still shows a remarkable amount of passion. Sure, some of the references are dated or oblique but, it still shows us a generation that certainly was not content with living their lives the way their parents did.
New York's Third Eye Repertory seeks to show who the "hippies" were, and what their world was like, in their 30th anniversary production (through March 9) of Hair with a little help from book and lyric co-writer, James Rado.
Rado recently told Playbill On-Line, what he thought about the 30th anniversary production, "I think it can still be very moving, it's being done authentically 1968 and I think it can be shocking, it's all shocking...there's still a war against nudity". "I still think it's a show about freedom, about a passionate time. That whole era had such an impact on the opening of the language and our attitude toward the reality of our life, sexually."
When Hair was transferred from it's Off-Broadway production (at The Public and The Cheetah) to Broadway's Biltmore Theatre, the text of the show when through various changes. Thirty years later, it's still being changed, "In studying it, there were some things that always bothered me about the structure of the show, so I corrected them. Revising, Tighter, Funnier, Clearer. More of a strong line with character development. It [Hair] was always criticized as a non-book, non-linear show. So, now the progression of the events are stronger, the emotional, that central focus is more tangible."
"Now it's like an automobilie, it's greased and clean."
"I felt a lot of the songs needed one more verse: 'Black Boys', 'Easy to be Hard', 'Good Morning Starshine', 'Aquarius'. "
Recently, a lot of comparison has been made between Hair and Jonathan Larson's Rent, with both using generational music in a theatrical format. Rado admitted to seeing Rent "several times", and his verdict: "I admire it, the way it was written, the compassion". Rado also pointed out that both Hair and Rent were set in the East Village, as far as blatant simularities, "Some of the lyrics, there is some of that."
Rado also talked about his future project, Rainbow, The Ghost of Vietnam, "which is a sort of sequel to Hair".
"It takes Claude [the lead in Hair, originally played by Rado] to the rainbow and brings him back as a ghost in the White House of President Nixon. I find Nixon a very comic character, in spite of what he stood for."
Rado is writing the book and the lyrics for Rainbow, as well collaborating with his brother Ted on the music. "I'm working in the studio on it right now, and hoping to come up with something to bring to producers."
With the 30-year anniversary production of Hair and a new musical on the way, for James Rado this may be the dawning of a new Aquarius.
Third Eye Repertory's production of Hair is directed by Shawn Rozsa and is playing at the Third Eye Repertory for tickets or more information call (212) 501-2420.
-- By Sean McGrath