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A Moving Paper Fantasy

April 20, 2010

Treat Williams in Milos Foreman's Hair

When Hair came back to Broadway last year my reaction was, “What in the name of Donnie Dacus is going on here?” On a cynical level I figured it was a johnny come lately attempt at dual war discourse, which may or may not be a fair assessment.

If you’re not acquainted with the musical, here’s the cheat sheet:

  • It tells the story of a somewhat racially diverse rag tag band of hippies who dance and sing their way through some of the most turbulent events of the late 60s.
  • Music by Galt MacDermot Lyrics James Rado & Gerome Ragni. Book by James Rado & Gerome Ragni
  • Original Broadway run includes: Diana Keaton (a train you’d be well advised to miss) Melba Moore, Ben Vereen, Keith Carradine, Barry McGuire, Ted Lange and Vicki Sue “Turn the Beat Around” Robinson.
  • has a nekkid scene sung to an incredibly punishing song called Walking in Space that starts all slow than then gets wocka wocka horntastic accompanied by appropriate amounts of jiggly bits liberating themselves from fashion stylist tape.
  • has helped more folks memorize Hamlet’s “What a Piece of Work is Man” than the Shakespearean text itself.
  • was adapted into a 1979 Milos “Amadeus” Forman film, which features the aforementioned Donny Dacus. (best known as a former member of Chicago and currently as a real estate tycoon of some note)

That said, it’s one of my favorite musicals. Moreover I have both seen and been in more than one or two productions of this musical – a staple of any production being there is more drama than the cast party of The Poseidon Adventure. Usually my contribution consists of singing Aquarius and then quickly ushered away from the mic to serve as colorful seat filler hippie, later reemerging to sing all the songs with “n-word” in the lyrics and if the production is really edgy – sing White Boys made popular by both Melba and my hero Neil Carter.

Ever since Milos cast a black woman of curvy proportions to sing “Aquarius” in his film, if I audition for the production I say, “Let’s save a week, I’ll sing Aquarius and Three-Five-Zero-Zero and meet my quota of pulling random audience members on stage for Let the Sunshine sing-a-long.” – another staple of most productions.

The 1990 John F. Kennedy High School Production La Mommie graciously agreed to take both myself and my hippie friend Nicole to featured stand out performances by a senior name Joel, best known to us as the “hot guy in domestics at Target”. It also featured us being plucked from the audience to hippie dance ourselves up to the stage and sing along with the theater geeks, who graciously allowed us use of their mic packs.

My first production as an actual cast member involved so many arrests for hippie happy possession (not me!) – necessitating many casting changes and had me playing SHEILA at one point – was so terrible we didn’t bother with the full six scheduled runs. It also involved me playing Claude, then rising from the dead to sing “Let the Sunshine” and of course, pulling random strangers from the audience to accompany the cast on stage.

That said, I think my friend Ry has convinced me to dust off one of my auntie caftans and audition for a production scheduled for a late Summer run.

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. April 20, 2010 11:49 am

    I’m still surprised nobody did a parody of “Donna” for the last election.

    Obama, Obama, Oh Obama… voting for Obama.

  2. April 20, 2010 11:53 am

    Haha. I love that song. That truly would have made for a great parody. Or Three-Five-Zero-Zero…

    Prisoners in GitMo it’s a dirty little war, 3 5 0 0… (gospel singer wails)

  3. aliciamaud74 permalink
    April 20, 2010 12:18 pm

    “Hair” and my dad’s unabridged dictionary combined to provide some of my earliest and most memorable sex ed. Used to my mom’s reflexive response of “Look it up” when I asked what a word meant, I took it upon myself to spend a portion of the afternoon with Webster’s and “Sodomy.” QUITE informative for this little self-starter!

  4. araymondjohnson permalink
    April 20, 2010 12:30 pm

    I forgot it was Galt McDermot!! damn. and Melba Moore! and now i have another song for our dream karaoke list: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGugz_4J-ww

  5. April 20, 2010 12:32 pm

    Oh my goodness! Yeah that song was a head scratcher and the linear notes did not provide definitions. It wasn’t until recently did I fully understand “Walking in Space” and “Electric Blues”.

  6. April 20, 2010 12:37 pm

    We do, Raymond.

    I watching bits of Hair – The Movie and wondering how they got the horses to dance like that and who decided to cast Beverly D’Angelo? It’s brilliant! I always forget she’s in this, along with Mrs. Garrett!

  7. April 20, 2010 12:44 pm

    Oh you KNOW I had to include this:

  8. IrishUp permalink
    April 20, 2010 12:45 pm

    My aunt took me to see “Hair” at the Biltmore for my 5th birthday.
    10 yrs later, she was the chaperone for about 10 mid-teens when we went to see Hair at a midnight showing at the 8th St. playhouse for my birthday. Poor woman spent the train-ride home disabusing 10 kids of all our romantic notions of being hippies in Central Park – she’d been the real thing after all. “Oh you think it was fun? Let me tell you about the “fun”. You were dirty. Your armpits stank. Your underwear got crusty. Your teeth got a furry film on them. Does that sound like FUN!” Ahhh, good times.

  9. April 20, 2010 12:51 pm

    OMG, Spoon! Pure Pop Bliss!!!

    Irish Up, La Mommie sounds like your aunt! Definite emphasis on the body odor and the lack of sanitation. Yeah, but I could not be swayed. Even all that sounded like a blast if you could dance and sing in the street without judgment. Of course then she had to mention that most of them weren’t exactly Broadway singers.

    Okay, am I the only person who wants to jump on a fancy table at a party or reception and sing “I Got Life”?

  10. aliciamaud74 permalink
    April 20, 2010 12:58 pm

    EEE! I’m with you. Oh, my students would have a breakdown at my “cuh-razee ways, daughter.”

  11. aliciamaud74 permalink
    April 20, 2010 1:04 pm

    Even when I loved ‘Rent” as a teen, La Vie Boheme struck me as a ripoff of that scene, and a lackluster one at that.

  12. IrishUp permalink
    April 20, 2010 1:05 pm

    I have some horsey “Hair” trivia: They auditioned horses from the now defunct Clairmont Stables that was on the West Side, and some other NYC stables for the riding scene with Claude & Sheila. Back in the day, there were several. I worked at one at the time & this was A BIG DEAL in horsey circles.

    Dressage horses in both English and Western can do moves like that, just not put together that way. Police horses get extra-special training in responding to their riders. Those horses got worked to learn a new routine the same way dancers would. One of the horses used for the police horses was actually from the barn I worked; his owner was auxililiary mounted, and he was a super gymkhana horse (western type horse show – barrel riding & such) .

  13. IrishUp permalink
    April 20, 2010 1:10 pm

    @Snarky – seriously: words of lived wisdome on the one hand, bare chested babes with awesome hair on the other hand. Really, what chance is there any teen worth hir salt is going with the former?

  14. April 20, 2010 1:18 pm

    We had to sing “Age of Aquarius” at my middle school 60s musical production. I was in Concert Chorus (the kind you had to audition for to get in) and we provided the musical entertainment. Interspersed with the music were monologues by actors playing various important public figures/charactersfrom the 60s.

    Fun Tasha Factoid: I played both Coretta Scott King and a rioter from the Watts riots, the latter of which required me to speak with an exaggerated blaccent and don makeup giving me a black eye and some bruises. I also worn torn up clothes and carried a bat. There was a rushed costume change when I had to go from that to the poised, beautiful Coretta Scott in a skirt suit and full makeup. Viva being the only black actress at my school!

  15. April 20, 2010 1:53 pm

    I have some horsey “Hair” trivia: They auditioned horses from the now defunct Clairmont Stables that was on the West Side, and some other NYC stables for the riding scene with Claude & Sheila. Back in the day, there were several. I worked at one at the time & this was A BIG DEAL in horsey circles.

    Dressage horses in both English and Western can do moves like that, just not put together that way. Police horses get extra-special training in responding to their riders. Those horses got worked to learn a new routine the same way dancers would. One of the horses used for the police horses was actually from the barn I worked; his owner was auxililiary mounted, and he was a super gymkhana horse (western type horse show – barrel riding & such) .

    Oh.my.god.

    IFMiB has the best commenters on the planet.

  16. April 20, 2010 2:09 pm

    My parents chose the movie version of Hair as one of our patented Sunday Afternoon Family Bonding Films when I was 7 or 8. I spent the summer after that watching it at least 3 times a week and listening to my mom’s tape of a Broadway cast recording non-stop. I wore that shit out.

    “Sodomy” educated me sexually (I remember being shocked! and appalled! that people would do those things). My mom and I actually worked out a 2-part harmony of that when I was a bit older to sing at random times. Ah, memories. My mom also wrote a paper for a psychology class comparing the psyches of Berger and Claude, and wound up presenting it at a statewide conference.

    Cheryl Barnes’ rendition of Easy To Be Hard in the film still gives me goosebumps and brings a tear to my eye.

    My SO recently went through MEPS to join the National Guard, and while he was telling me about all of the naked calisthenics he had to do (like naked duckwalking) all I could think of was “White Boys/Black Boys.”

    Oh, Hair, thou art the soundtrack of my life.

  17. April 20, 2010 2:22 pm

    Cheryl Barnes’ rendition of Easy To Be Hard in the film still gives me goosebumps and brings a tear to my eye.

    Yes, yes, yes! It’s incredibly soulful. Until I saw the film I often viewed it as a throw away song. I hadn’t seen it effectively performed, thus had no real context for its meaning in the work.

    Also your mom sounds incredibly bad ass!

    I still get chills and a bit teary eyed when I see the film version of “Let the Sunshine”. Filmed by Forman with such creepy precision and chilling humanity (lol, what does even mean?) . It’s one of the best scenes he’s ever shot. It makes the entire film for me.

  18. IrishUp permalink
    April 21, 2010 10:27 am

    @Snarky

    “I still get chills and a bit teary eyed when I see the film version of “Let the Sunshine”.
    Oh, me too! And always has – even hearing the Fifth Dimension version on the radio. Thanks for the video.

  19. IrishUp permalink
    April 21, 2010 10:28 am

    Also, TYVM (is blushing fiercely); horsey trivia generally has a limited audience.

  20. April 21, 2010 7:01 pm

    Horsey trivia is exactly the kind of new hotness welcome on Fry Butter.

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  1. The Importance of Being Milos Foreman « Snarky's Machine

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