Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My Conviction, Jonathan Kramer (1968)

Forty years ago today, the American Tribal Love-Rock Musical known as HAIR opened on Broadway and ran for 1,750 performances. From the standpoint of mainstream theatre, with its interracial cast, nude scene and "Be-In" finale involving the audience, it was pure anarchy.

The first soundtrack album I ever bought, HAIR was positively awash with a lust for life and many of the songs - including the lesser ones - have been indelibly imprinted on my brain. For reasons that I can't begin to fathom, My Conviction, performed by cast member Jonathan Kramer, is one of the songs from that album that to this day I can sing every word of without skipping a beat. I also know the entire What A Piece of Work is Man soliloquy from Hamlet by heart because it was used (slightly modified) in one of the songs on the soundtrack.

With book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni and music by Galt MacDermot, the play was a celebration of life, a plea for peace and an uninhibited enactment of the freedom of youth to say just about anything and get away with it. Most of the people who attended, according to this TIME magazine article from 1968 (complete with Groucho Marx quote), were adults, however.

I always liked the clever My Conviction because it pointed out so minimalistically why it went against the natural order of things to get upset about long hair on boys. In those days, of course, it was common to kick kids out of school for such sins; I myself, part of a very small group of hippies in my school, was sent home more than once because my skirt was too short (the principal was a former Marine and did not take kindly to our bucking the system).

HAIR's original cast included Diane Keaton, Melba Moore and Shelley Plimpton, and apparently many of the alumni will be gathering in New York soon to celebrate. That sounds like a reunion that would be a lot more fun than my 20th high school reunion was!

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