”…be free, no guilt, be whoever you are, do whatever you want, just as long as you don’t hurt anyone.” This Utopian philosophy incorporates many concepts which supply lyrics for a show comprised almost exclusively of rock musical numbers.
In the age of Aquarius, a time of harmony and understanding, sex-Sodomy and drugs-Hashish are used as vehicles to evade reality and the establishment. Skin colors are insignificant-Colored Spade and I’m Black. Imagination-Manchester, England lends beauty to a dreary existence-Dead End. The spirit of communal living finds its expressions in yearnings-Ain’t Got No, affection-I Believe in Love, common needs-Ain’t Got No Grass, awareness-Air and a desire to partake-I Got Life.
George Berger sets the mood in a song about his recent banishment from high school-Goin’ Down. He mocks the educational hierarchy, and is obviously delighted to be dismissed. Berger feels persecuted by society as he learns of the draft notice received by his friend, Claude. Claude, whose only valuable possession, other than his freedom, is his Hair, tells of its joys. “Give me a head of hair, long beautiful hair, shining, gleaming, steaming, flaxen, waxen…let it fly in the breeze…I want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy…”
Sheila, a protester from NYU who lives with Berger and Claude, aspires to spread love. In an effort to please, Sheila buys Berger a yellow satin shirt which he spurns. She feels rejected-Easy to Be Hard.
As the flower children are leaving to attend a Be-in, one girl, Crissy, alone in her thoughts, sings of a boy she once met and of her longings to meet him again-Frank Mills.
At the Be-In, the boys burn their draft cards, exhibiting devotion to peace - Be-In “Hara Krishna“. Claude puts his card into the fire, changes his mind and removes it. He has ambivalent feelings about escaping the draft-Where Do I Go.
Following a group ritual, Claude arrives dressed as a gorilla. He fantasizes ways to avoid being inducted. The kids recognize there is no escape and to ease the immediate tensions, Berger passes ‘joints’ to all.
During a drug induced hallucination-Walking in Space, Claude visualizes George Washington retreating, Indians shooting white men, famous American characters being attacked by African Witch Doctors, Abraham Lincoln patronizing toward the slaves, followed by mass murders. After the violence, Claude sees his Mom, Dad and a Sergeant beaming with pride due to his enrollment in the Army. They fade from view, replaced by the flower children who turn into horrible monsters and start killing one another; directing their aggressive actions towards Claude-Three-Five-Zero-Zero. Two of the group, observing this scene of destruction, express their feelings about mankind in What a Piece of Work Is Man.
Claude realizes that once he is inducted into the Army, he will not be able to enjoy all of life’s simple pleasures-Good Morning Starshine and The Bed. He sees life in the streets offers no more fulfillment than life in the establishment. The stripping away of his freedom leaves him a feeling of doom-Ain’t Got No (Reprise). Later, Claude dressed in a military uniform, enters the sanctum of the kids, but they are unable to see him-Eyes, Look Your Last. Ultimately, Claude lies in his uniform on a black cloth in center stage-The Flesh Failures (Let the Sun Shine In). The show ends on an upbeat note, sustaining its joyous mood with the full company in Hippie Life.
As a social commentary of our times, HAIR provides an insight into the philosophy of the flower children of the 1960's. As the first and most successful of the rock musicals, HAIR provides a new element in musical theatre entertainment.