Will NBC's Next Live Musical Show Dong?

NBC has announced that its next live musical—a follow up to star-studded productions of Jesus Christ Superstar, Hairspray, Peter Pan, The Wiz, and Sound of Music—will be Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. So now the real question: Will the cast hang brain?

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The musical, which debuted off-Broadway in 1967 and was adapted into a (very different) film in 1979, follows a group of free-lovin’ hippies circa the Vietnam War. Among them are Claude, an American who pretends to be British, Berger, a charismatic lothario who DOESN’T break up with anyone on a post-it, and Sheila, the student activist who loves him.

Groundbreaking for its politics and contemporary rock score that broke from the tradition of musicals, paving the way for works like Jesus Christ Superstar and Rent, Hair received threats of censorship for the nude scene that concludes the first act. Of the scene, Hair co-creator James Rado told NJ.com in 2008, “It’s like a supernatural vortex. Being naked in front of an audience, you’re bearing your soul. Not only the soul but the whole body was being exposed. It was very apt, very honest and almost necessary.”

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Necessary enough for NBC to show full frontal n00dz??? Come on, do it for art! We’ll find out if the network will boldly go where network TV hasn’t gone before when Hair airs in spring 2019.

Managing Editor, Jezebel

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DISCUSSION

Jerry-Netherland
Jerry-Netherland

The play is still very powerful (with an incomparable score that doesn’t have one stinker in nearly 25 songs). Its most recent revival (Broadway 2009, national tour 2010) was as timely as it was 40 years ago, and in the Trump era, it’s as necessary as ever.

With the exception of Fox’s miserably sanitized Rocky Horror Show, the networks have stuck to “family-friendly” selections (Bye Bye Birdie, Sound of Music, Peter Pan, etc.), so Hair will be the first really grown-up selection. (Don’t hold your breath for a Network version of, say, Cabaret; too adult for the Nielsen people).

All that said, Hair’s nude scene is powerful in a live theatre, but on TV, not really necessary. That’s the least of NBC’s problems (it was probably out from the day they inked this deal). More significantly, how will they deal with the drug use, much of which is central to the score? (I suspect they’ll drop the numbers “Hashish” and “Initials”, which starts with LSD).

The 1979 film of Hair isn’t bad (and, damn, was Treat Williams beautiful!) though it’s very different from the play, particularly in its look and its Twyla Tharpe choreography. But the film sanitized a lot of the grungier aspects (and made it “prettier”, adding horseback riding in Central Park and posh Society dinners); dropped several songs. NBC will probably split the difference between the two: keep the look of the play, make it more the score and direction palatable to the advertisers.