Here, There, Everywhere Hair
by Richard Lemon
Performing Arts Magazine (the San Francisco program) - October 1969

"Here baby, there Momma, everywhere Daddy, Daddy - Hair!"

Groovy.  In Paris, London, Munich, Hamburg, Belgrade and Sidney, people of all ages and styles are flocking to see what may soon be the world's most popular show - America's youthful, anti-war, hippie, long-haired, sometimes naked, tribal-love-rock musical, Hair.

In PAris, Hair had an advance sale of $80,000 - twice as much as any show in Paris history.  Plainly dressed bourgeoisie, high-style celebrities, and Latin Quarter hippies assembled in such numbers that the police had to be called in several times.  One night, fist fights broke out in the audience, but the cast restored calm by chanting "Love, love, love" for five minutes.

In Belgrade, the theater's removable roof had to be put back on because hundreds of teen-agers climbed the walls to see the show free and the authorities were afraid somebody might fall off.  The wildly enthusiastic audience jumps onstage to dance with performers at the show's end.

And in London, where 1,200 people pack the Shaftsbury Theater eight times a week, Canon Douglas Rhymes, Vicar of Camberwell, went and observed, "I think it has taught me a lot."

The urge to be seen in Hair is just as great as the urge to see it.  For its 28 roles, there were 3,005 applicants in London, 2,800 in Munich, 2,400 in Paris and 1,800 in San Francisco.

When Hair was being groomed for its off-Broadway opening 21 months ago, its most enthusiastic backers had no idea of the success they were unleashing.  The show is grossing $350,000 a week, or $18 million a year, against an original investment of $150,000.

New companies are being planned for Israel, Finland, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Canada, ands Japan.  In addition to San Francisco, Hair is also playing New York and Los Angeles, with shows planned for Boston, Chicago, Toronto, and Honolulu.  A miniature version may play smaller cities like Atlanta and Houston.

The added companies could double the take next year.  And the original cast recording of Galt MacDermot's score has been at the top of the U.S. charts for months.

"We have achieved the prime symbol of the Establishment - we have made money," says wealthy producer Michael Butler, dressed all in yellow and sitting in his lavender house in suburban Chicago.  "We have shown the establishment that all these hippies can play their game and make it.  I think Hair will go on for ten years.  Maybe it will become a kind of universal celebration."

The success of Hair has not universally brought the "harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding" which its lyrics extol, and some of it's young performers have had occasional adjustment problems.

"I enjoy doing the show because you have to use young people talented in rock music, but naive to the theater," says Tom O'Horgan, who directed the New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles companies and has had a hand in several foreign productions, too.  "But when the show succeeds,  old show-biz people start to encroach and try to change the kids' heads.  And the kids suffer, because they know they're losing that special quality.  That's what we learned sadly in New York."

But mostly, Hair seems to be speaking a common, happy tongue all over the world.  "The old generation fought in the Second World War, and the new one does not wish to know about that or any other war," says Mira Trailovic, the show's director in Yugoslavia.  "This is not simply an American problem, but one which affects all countries."

"In each of the performances we saw," says lyricist Gerome Ragni, "directors added something of local color.  Los Angeles is a bulldozer of a show.  In London, it's a very sweet show, very gentle.  The Paris one had a strong political note because of student unrest there.  The idea is so versatile it can be stretched in a lot of directions."

Translation, generally, has been no problem.  The Yugoslav and French languages furnished easy counterparts for the show's hippie jargon, and in both countries, topical jokes have been added.

A French actor, handing out LSD cubes, says "Here's one for Francois Mauriac, one for Tante Yvonne (Mme. de Gaulle), and one for Madame Pompidou" which brings down the house.  In Belgrade, there are digs at Albania and Mao Tse-tung.

The spirit of the thing has sometimes proved harder to catch.  Producer-director Bertrand Castelli did both the French and German versions.  "This is a very individualistic country," he says of France.  "Hair is a group thing that requires complete engagement, complete enjoyment.  To make them a into a group was as difficult as making different kinds of birds fly in a flock.  And on top of that, the French really hate to enjoy themselves."

"Most people here don't even know what hippies are," says German producer Werner Schmid.  "Before the Munich opening, we stayed here day and night, trying to explain to the kids what it was all about."  When the long-haired authors, Jim Rado and Jerome (sic) Ragni, came to Munich, they were turned away by one hotel.

The greatest variations have come in the actors' willingness to get into the buff.  The French cast, Castelli says, accepted nakedness "almost religiously," and is the nudest of the foreign groups.  The Germans, to appease the authorities, play their nude scene behind a big sheet labeled "CENSORED", lowering it to speak their lines.  The British, not surprisingly, have found nudity the hardest to achieve.

"Oh, it's a drag to strip," says London actress Rohan McCullough.  "It's sweaty hard work.  But it has to be done.  I knew that if i didn't do it the first night, I wouldn't do it.  So I did it.  I struggled out of my clothes, flustered, and there I was, nude, standing in the Shaftsbury Theater with 1,200 people looking.  But they don't see us as individuals, I'm sure.  A great boyfriend of mine who's been to the show eight times told me that he's never seen me once."

To return to the Hair Articles Index click here.
Or use you Back button to return to where you were.