First Seattle production of Hair debuts at the Moore Theater on April 18, 1970.

  • By Walt Crowley
  • Posted 4/08/2002
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 3741
On April 18, 1970, a local production of the "American tribal love rock musical" Hair debuts at the specially refurbished Moore Theater. The counter-culture play, which had set records on Broadway, meets mixed local reviews amid growing political tensions on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Cambodia.

The story and lyrics of Hair were written by Gerome Ragni and James Radi, unemployed actors living in New York City's East Village. At the suggestion of famed producer Joseph Papp, they retained Galt MacDermot to set the play to music. Papp staged the first performance at The Public Theater on October 17, 1967, where Hair attracted the attention of Michael Butler. He financed a production at the Cheetah club and then the Broadway premiere at the Biltmore on April 29, 1968. The play ran 1,742 performances until July 1, 1972 -- the fourth longest run in Broadway history at that time.

Local Lefties Wig Out

The Seattle presentation was financed by local investors such as rock impresario Boyd Grafmyer. A local cast -- or "tribe" -- was recruited but rehearsals were cut short when the planned debut was pushed up from June to mid-April on the advice of an astrologer (Helix, April 23, 1970). Local radicals attacked the musical as a "put-on put-down rip-off" of counter-culture values, and the Seattle Liberation Front demanded a fourth of ticket sales for distribution to community organizations.

The Seattle underground newspaper Helix savaged the production and wrote that only the cast's energy "makes the show bearable." Seattle's Hair played more than three months, a local record, and went on to Miami for a national tour. The musical was revived in April 2002 by The 5th Avenue Theatre.


Sources: Helix, April 16 and 23, 1970; Hair Pages website (www.geocities.com/hairpages).

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