I realized a forty-year-old dream last night when we went to see a community theater production of Hair. The Rent of its day--although far more transgressive--Hair was the Big Thing for little show-tune freaks, given even more appeal by the fact that we had to listen to the record (which was all we knew of the show, since we certainly wouldn't be allowed to see it. Nudes!) out of earshot of our parents. I remember clandestinely (I thought) listening to my older sister's recording and my mother overhearing "Happy Birthday Abie Baby" ("emanci-motherfuckin'-pator of the slaves") and pitching a fit. Has High School Musical ever occasioned such perfect drama?
Growing up in Boston added allure, too, as, when the show came to town in 1970, it was promptly shut down and banned for a month until the Supreme Court allowed it to reopen. I remember faking illness to stay home from school one day because the cast was going to perform on some local TV talk show. How ironic that "America's oldest community theater" (the Footlight Club opened in 1877) would be presenting it thirty-some years later without fuss, obscenities and (discreetly lit) nudity intact.
I didn't get half of the sex jokes back then, and certainly didn't recognize just how druggie it was--my exposure to illegal substances was then limited to the "awareness tablets" that a cop had brought into our junior high and lit in front of the classroom to demonstrate what marijuana smelled like so we would know when to blow the whistle on a party, I guess. Last night, at fifty-one, I had little patience with the show's loosey-goosey free-range dialogue that was supposed to convey the inspiration of drugs and wondered how anyone could have ever heard it as meaningful or even sincere.
But to think of drugs as "mind-expanding" is even more taboo today than in 1968, as is the show's gleeful employment of racial epithets. Forget getting banned in Boston; can it play in L.A.?
What I mostly thought last night, sentimentally and dolefully, is that now I'm the parents and, really, so is the show. I'm betting the sweet kids on stage were as bemused by the LBJ jokes they were spouting as I had been by "Sodomy."