Composer Galt MacDermot passed away in the final month of 2018, but his music lives on. This spring, his groundbreaking masterpiece Hair will celebrate 51 years and ten years since the 2009 Broadway revival. The first Broadway show I ever saw (back in the 1970s, when I was four), I’ve loved Hair ever since. I even had the chance in 2004 to produce and music direct a star-studded concert to benefit The Actors Fund, starring Adam Pascal, Jennifer Hudson, and Raúl Esparza. Here are some of the fun stories I’ve collected over the years about this brilliant show:
Many performers involved in the original 1968 Broadway production went on to show business fame, including Diane Keaton, Meat Loaf, Ben Vereen, and, in the 1977 revival, Peter Gallagher. But there were also great people who auditioned and didn’t make the cut. Harvey Fierstein tried out during the original run and didn’t get in (though he was in my concert version) and future Tony winner Priscilla Lopez auditioned as well. However, it’s easy to see why she didn’t make the cut: Priscilla, who only knew it was a musical, showed up in her typical musical audition outfit and launched into her signature audition song, sweetly intoning, “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.” Suffice it to say, no callback.
There was another future Tony winner who gave a great audition and still didn’t get cast in the show. Donna Murphy was a student at NYU when she auditioned to be a replacement for the 1977 revival. She was certain she got cast and ran back to her dorm, awaiting the phone call. She waited, and waited, and nothing. She could not believe it. Was her sense of how the audition went totally wrong? She soon found that she wasn’t offered a role in the revival because right after her audition, the show closed.
Original cast member Melba Moore almost didn’t do the show because when Galt MacDermot approached her, saying, “How would you like to do Hair on Broadway?,” she snapped, “I didn’t go to four years of music school to spend my time doing somebody’s hair on Broadway!” And to further prove how groundbreaking that show was, Melba wound up taking over the role of Sheila, originated by Lynn Kellogg. It was the first time an African-American actress took over a role originated by somebody white without changing the show to an all-black cast (as it had when Pearl Bailey took on the role of Dolly Levi).
Yes, the show preached love and peace, but sometimes it didn’t always turn out that way; in the 2009 revival, the cast would break the fourth wall during “Let The Sun Shine In” and connect with the audience. Gavin Creel told me that during one matinée Allison Case went to embrace one man in a nice suit, when she was suddenly treated like a perp on an episode of Law & Order. Turns out, Hillary Clinton was in attendance that day and the man in a nice suit was actually a secret service agent. That hug went to a headlock faster than you can say, “Nobody welcomes audience participation.”