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Hair the Musical: Synopsis, Songs & Characters

Instructor: Elisa Goldman

Elisa has taught K-6 grades and has two master's degree in Instructional Technology and Education.

In this lesson, you will learn about the musical: Hair. When you think of Hippies (not hipsters) and protesting the ~'Establishment~', this is the groovy musical for you.

A Show Like No Other

Transcendental meditation on the ocean of cyber reality is Love...Peace... Justice... Freedom...Tolerance... Happiness...Liberation... These opening lines of Hair sum up the spirit of the show that introduced the 'rock musical' to the world.

Hair was one of the first rock musicals, not only because of the energetic rhythms of the music, but because a true rock voice was needed to perform it. This was a style that not every Broadway-trained actor could pull off. The show was also among the first to use hand-held microphones, so every performer would be clearly heard throughout the theater. This practice has never gone away, although the microphones are now wearable devices instead of being held or on a stand.

Not only did its style make Hair unique but also its controversial approach to hot button topics of the day - 1967 - like free love and equal rights for those of all races and sexual orientation. The events and ideologies of Hair mirror what was happening in the US at that time. Characters used drugs and profanity, disrespected the US flag, and the play even contained a nude scene. Many people were anti-establishment, actively opposing mainstream political, social, and/or economic values. They protested the Vietnam War and believed in free love. If they had had social media apps, Twitter and Facebook would have blown up!

The musical opened on Broadway in April of 1968 at the Biltmore Theater in New York City and ran for 1,750 performances. The duo of Gerome Ragni and James Rado wrote the lyrics and book and performed as the leads. Galt MacDermot composed the music. The show was nominated for Best Musical at the Tony Awards in 1969. It did not win; however, the 2009 production won the Tony for Best Revival. In 1979, a movie was made of Hair.

Main Characters

'Claude' is a young man about to be drafted and presumably sent to the war in Vietnam. He is intelligent and mindful of his own limitations. He is born under the defiant sign of Aquarius. While Claude is adopted into the Tribe seems to enjoy the culture, he eventually decides the counter-culture life is not for him and joins the military.

'Berger' is a leader of the Tribe and a social activist. He is a good friend of Claude's and a free spirit. Berger is a bit of a showman, corralling the others to do what he wants. He likes to lead the Tribe in various anti-establishment pursuits such as protests, drug use and going against the expectation of society during that time.

'Sheila' is a New York University student and political activist. Sheila is in love with Berger, who does not return her feelings. Although she is fierce in her views about politics and societal issues, she is easily manipulated by her attraction for Berger.

Synopsis

The subtitle of Hair is The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. Hair is about a group of flower children, known as the Tribe, in New York's East Village. They emulate Native American tribes by living close to the Earth, living in a natural way, and making their own music, art and culture. They question authority and the society they are living in. They seek to find a new way of living and to change the world. They gather to welcome the new astrological age, the Age of Aquarius, an age of rule breaking, defiance of authority and higher-minded consciousness.

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