NAKED ON STAGE
Photo Credit: Lawrence Stallings, Steel Burkhardt and Matt DeAngelis in the HAIR National Tour Photo: Joan Marcus
In 1968, Broadway was forever changed.
It was the first time certain subjects were sung about onstage in a musical using rock and roll. A replica of the flag actually touched the floor. Lyrics listed 20 derogatory names for African Americans. The use of recreational drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, opium and LSD were flouted. The performers crooned about different ways of sexual pleasure. Miscegenation was touted. Abraham Lincoln was referred to as an “emanci-mother-f******-pater of the slaves.” The show that changed Broadway was HAIR: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical.
Not only were these firsts happening on a Broadway stage, but it was also the first time that a show had its actors display full frontal nudity.
The famed nude scene was not in the original off Broadway production, but when the show moved uptown, a New York state law permitted actors to be nude on a public stage if they were standing still. The show opened. The lighting dimmed, the actors undressed and there they all stood…still, not breaking the law, but naked as the day they were born.
Why such a big deal?
Much brouhaha has been made of this first act finale but Tom O’Horgan, the director of the original Broadway cast of HAIR, has told the BBC that, “I think that the famed nude scene has been greatly over-emphasized. It has very little importance in the show itself and much of the publicity has obscured the important aspects of the play.”
HAIR was celebrating every aspect of life. This nude scene demonstrated that the human body is natural, beautiful and not something to be hidden.
“I got life, mother.
I got laughs, sister.
I got freedom, brother.
I got good times, man…like you…
And I’m going to spread it around the world
So that everybody knows what I got.”
Lyrics from “I Got Life” from HAIR
Nudity on Broadway? Thank HAIR.
Full or partial nudity
Here is a list of some shows that have followed in HAIR’s shoeless footsteps on Broadway:
- The Full Monty
- The Elephant Man
- Spring Awakening
- Otherwise Engaged
- M. Butterfly
- Cabaret (the revival)
- The Blue Room
- Angels in America
- Take Me Out
- Love! Valour! Compassion!
- The Graduate
- Frankie and Johnny in the Clair De Lune
- The Little Dog Laughed
- O! Calcutta!
Original Cast Member
Will Swenson, original Broadway cast member, told Broadway.com that when people hear he appeared in HAIR, they always ask the same question, “Did you get naked?” “No,” he answers, “I had on a microphone pack and five bracelets.” He also declared that he would be performing the show, “challenging complacency, removing my clothes and praying for a not-very-cold theatre.”