Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical

by Brittany Holsonback
“This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius.” Or, more accurately, the re-dawning is currently lighting the big white way. Hair is a big hit once again on Broadway and Jacksonville Beach’s own Players By The Sea prepare to bring Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical back to their stage. Featuring all of your old favorite tunes made famous by the original, this classic Broadway hit also boasts bright, funky costumes, quirky characters and an overall message of peace, love and happiness.
Hair tells the story of the “tribe,” a group of like-minded young people living a bohemian lifestyle in New York City during the 1960s. Claude, Berger, Sheila and the rest of their hippie friends push the confines and limits of society in an attempt to test their freedom of expression. Through exploring their own sexual openness and opposing the Vietnam War, the tribe’s determination to be who they are directly opposes the conservative mindset of their families and the society in which they live.
While decade-specific themes often cause plays to become dated and trite, the directors of this Players production, Lee Hamby and Barbara Colaciello Williams, would argue that for Hair the opposite is true.
“With the war we’re in now and the politics and protests against everything, it’s all so parallel to what was going on back then,” he says. “Drugs, nudity and anti-war protests are all issues that are still controversial now. As time has passed, things haven’t changed that much. The same issues are still going on today.”
Despite the 40-year gap between Hair’s original debut and the Players’ upcoming production, there is a lot to be said for the way the music lives on in the current generation of young people, transcending time and social boundaries. As the children of Baby Boomers, many twenty-somethings today grew up listening to the songs with their parents. Even more telling, however, is Hair’s continued legacy among children.
“I work at a children’s camp, and it’s funny because these kids don’t know who Cher or Madonna are, but they know Hair songs. And these kids are only 6-years-old,” says Hamby.
Despite its longevity, Hair created a great deal of controversy in its Broadway debut. And it seems like no matter how many years go by or how many times it is recreated, the 1960’s musical just can’t seem to shake the stigma of being controversial.
“I can’t tell you how many times a day people ask if we’re doing the nudity. It’s something that sticks out in everyone’s mind,” says Hamby.
He is referring, of course, to the brief stint of nudity at the very end of Act I, as Claude tries to decide if he will resist the draft like his fellow tribe members.
“People expect it to be a bigger deal than it is,” says Hamby. “They’re only naked for one word. Literally, it’s for two seconds on the word ‘freedom.'”
According to Hamby, in the new revival of Hair, the actors are naked for a lot longer. However, the Players will emulate the original Broadway production. This means that the actor’s silhouettes will only be visible behind a parachute. Still, more memorable than that quick flash of nudity-at least as far as the Players are concerned-will be the friendships made throughout the process of bringing Hair back to life on the main stage. “I’ve never seen a cast so inseparable,” says Hamby. “A lot of friends have been made very quickly. I’ve made some life-long friends that I cherish already and it’s only been a month.”
But, none of this can outweigh what is arguably the most important and captivating aspect of not only this, but every production of Hair – the music.
“The music says it all. Even if you didn’t know or understand the story, the costumes, the music and the choreography relate to everyone and stand the test of time,” says Hamby. “It’s all about the music.”
“This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius. The age of Aquarius. Aquarius! Aquarius!”