Musical Hair to be broadcast live on NBC next year

Gavin Creel (left) and Will Swenson in the musical Hair at the Al Hirschfeld Theater in New York on March 3, 2009.
Gavin Creel (left) and Will Swenson in the musical Hair at the Al Hirschfeld Theater in New York on March 3, 2009. PHOTO: NYTIMES

LOS ANGELES • In 1968, the Broadway production of Hair made some critics tear their hair out over its nudity, allusions to drug use and homosexuality as well as treatment of the American flag.

More than 50 years after making waves, Hair will now make its network television debut on NBC in spring next year – in front of a live studio audience.

“These songs are part of the vocabulary of popular music and this rebellious story of young people protesting and standing up for what they believe in is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago,” Mr Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment, said in a statement.

The rock musical tells the story of Claude, a hippie struggling to decide whether to resist being drafted into the Vietnam War, and his group of counter-cultural friends as they try to reconcile their ideals with the realities of society.

The show’s book and lyrics are by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, with music by Galt MacDermot.

Hair Live! will follow several other NBC live musicals such as The Sound Of Music, The Wiz and, most recently, Jesus Christ Superstar, which aired last month and starred John Legend, Sara Bareilles and Alice Cooper.

Since first appearing off-Broadway in 1967 at the Public Theatre, Hair has gone on to become a pop culture phenomenon.

It ran on Broadway for more than four years at the Biltmore Theatre. It has had four Broadway revivals since then, with the 2009 production winning the Tony Award for best revival.

Its original cast album spent three months at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in 1969 and spawned four smash singles.

The Fifth Dimension’s medley of Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In was the No. 1 pop hit in the United States for six weeks in 1969 and was also the No. 2 single that year.

A film version of the musical, directed by Milos Forman and choreographed by Twyla Tharp, was released in 1979.

That movie had followed One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), which bagged Forman his first Oscar for Best Director.

NBC has not announced casting details yet, but it is a good bet that it will drop the nude scene, which sparked threats of censorship when the musical first debuted, despite it being brief and staged largely behind a screen.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2018, with the headline 'Musical Hair to be broadcast live on NBC next year'. Print Edition | Subscribe