NBC has set the counterculture classic Hair Live! as its live musical presentation next spring. Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who have executive produced all of the network’s live musicals since The Sound of Music revived the genre in 2013, will do so again.
Hair Live! will be produced by Universal Television, MGM Television, and Zadan/Meron Productions. NBC has not officially ended its holiday musical tradition, though the network shifted its live musical events to spring for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 season. It aired Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert. starring John Legend, Sara Bareilles and Alice Cooper, on Easter Sunday last month.
The logline: The story of a group of politically active hippies living a bohemian life in New York while fighting against and resisting the Vietnam War. Claude, his good friends Berger and Sheila, and their “tribe” are coming of age in the world of the sexual revolution while struggling with their rebellion against the war and their conservative parents and society. Claude must decide whether to resist the draft as his friends have done, or succumb to the pressures of conservative America to serve in Vietnam, compromising his principles and beliefs.
“When we both, individually, saw Hair on Broadway, we were knocked out by how musical theater could be stretched into something so daring, immersive, and audacious,” Zadan and Meron said in a statement. “Its recent Broadway revival showed how timeless the show is and that it’s relevant to any era. Hair is filled with heartfelt emotion, joy, and thrilling music, and it really will be the new dawning of the Age of Aquarius.”
It’s been more than half a century (!) since the American tribal love musical first hit the Broadway boards, debuting at the Biltmore Theatre in April 1968 — six months after its off-Broadway bow as the inaugural production of Joseph Papp’s Public Theater. With music by Galt MacDermot and a book by James Rado & George Ragni, the show had an initial four-year run on the Great White Way and has been revived there four times since, most recently in 2011.
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 country’s No. 1 pop hit for six weeks in 1969 and was the No. 2 single of that year. (Young Riverdale fans can ask their grandparents about 1969’s top song, the Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar.”) The Cowsills’ “Hair,” Three Dog Night’s “Easy to Be Hard” and Oliver’s “Good Morning Starshire” all hit the national Top 5.
The musical inspired a 1979 movie by Milos Forman — his follow-up to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the 1975 pic that earned him his first Oscar for Best Director. The Hair film cast included Treat Williams, Beverly D’Angelo, and John Savage.
“I’m overjoyed that James Rado and Galt MacDermot are trusting us with their masterpiece Hair, one of the most original shows ever conceived for Broadway with one of the greatest scores,” said Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment. “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. This will be the perfect live event, and I’m looking forward to seeing Craig and Neil, along with our partners at MGM and the original creators, bring the audience to their feet as they experience these beloved songs and recognizable young characters.”
Said Mark Burnett, President of MGM Television Group: “Hair has become such an iconic film in our culture, and now on its 50th anniversary, it’s the ideal time to perform it live on television.”