This month Clef Notes is taking a look at the history of musical theater. This week, we’ve reached the post Golden-Age musicals, those musicals created roughly between 1967 and 1990. Today, I’d like to focus in on one famous and innovative musical from this period: Hair.
Hair emerged from a workshop approach to theater that depended on collective input and group improvisation rather than a fixed idea to create a production. Workshop productions explore nonverbal communication and break down the barrier between the stage and the audience. Hair began in the Open Theater’s Workshop with Gerome Ragni and James Rado—two actors who aimed to explore the baby-boomer generation of the 1960s. Hair revolved around the energetic, hippy-youth movement who were anti-war and promoters of civil rights.
Hair eventually moved to Broadway after being reworked by director Tom O’Horgan, who aimed to violate as many norms as he could by including nudity, allowing actors to mingle with audience members, using hand-held mics, and incorporating a rock idiom. You can view a scene from Hair below. Can you see why this musical was considered shocking by some?