Many people know a song or three from the 1968 rock musical "Hair." The soundtrack is iconic -- featuring such hits as "Aquarius," "Let the Sun Shine In" and the title song -- reaching far beyond the hippie era it depicts.
But nearly as famous as the songs is the controversy surrounding the last scene of Act I. As the main character, Claude, sings about his confusion about his future -- whether to accept his draft into the Vietnam War or hide from service -- the rest of the cast strips naked on stage as they sing with him.
When asked about the scene, Noah Plomgren, who plays Claude in the national touring production of the most recent revival of "Hair," made a noise that was somewhere between a laugh and a sigh about the question he has heard again and again.
Noah Plomgren plays the lead role of Claude in the national touring production of 'Hair.'
"It's really one of the most beautiful scenes in the play," he said. "It's very artistically done, it's very dimly lit. In rehearsal, it was handled very sensitively. They wanted to make sure everyone was comfortable. I think everyone has found it very liberating.
"I think I'm the only one who isn't naked, because I'm singing a very introspective power ballad and everyone is stripping their clothes off in back of me. But everyone has said it's very empowering."
Plomgren and the rest of the (usually clothed) cast will bring the touring adaptation of the hit 2009 Broadway revival to Eisenhower Auditorium on the Penn State University Park campus at 7:30 p.m. April 12.
If you go
When: 7:30 p.m. April 12
Where: Eisenhower Auditorium, University Park
Tickets: $53 and $62 for adults, $38 and $44 for University Park students and $48 and $54 for those age 18 and younger
Parental discretion is advised. Hair includes a dimly lighted, 20-second scene with non-sexual nudity.
The Center for the Performing Arts presentation has been selling very well, said director of marketing Laura Sullivan. But there have been some concerned calls there, as well.
"We've had some questions about the production from patrons -- mostly about the 20-second, dimly lit nudity, about whether or not people can bring their teenagers," Sullivan said. "There's nothing questionable, it just stays true to the original production."
That "original production" of "Hair" premiered on Broadway in 1968 and was subtitled "The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical." It tells the story of a "tribe" of politically active hippies living a free love lifestyle in New York City. The ground-breaking musical featured controversial discussions of drugs, sex, racism, religion and more, but proved to be a big hit. It ran for four years and was adapted into a (dramatically changed) film by director Milos Forman in 1979.
The musical's most recent Broadway revival -- following an unsuccessful one in 1977 -- was a big hit in 2009, winning both the Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Best Revival of a Musical.
"I had seen this production my freshman year of college [at Carnegie Mellon University]," Polmgren said. "I took a trip to New York to audition for a Broadway show I was in consideration for and at the last minute snagged a Standing Room Only ticket to 'Hair' -- it was the big hit of the season. The music ... it's one of the most incredible scores ever written."
This current national touring production is the second tour of the revival, following a two-year run that began in 2010. According to Plomgren, who spoke to the Mirror by phone from his home in Southern California, the revival is mostly faithful to the original production.
And, though that production is more than 35 years old, it still resonates today.
"Even though it took place in 1968, all of its themes are still relevant to today," Plomgren said. "Different age groups might respond to it differently. Everyone brings their own life experiences to a musical."
Plomgren said that audiences have been responding well to the show, as well as its unique "audience participation" segments.
"Audiences have been wonderful and really welcoming," he said. "In many parts of the show, we have cast marching into the audience and protesting and holding hands and handing out flowers."
Sullivan thinks the Eisenhower crowd will be just as entertained, judging by the interest that the show has drawn.
"We're excited about the show. It's getting really good reviews," she said. "Tickets are selling really well. ... It's been a strong seller for us. The whole second semester has been a strong seller for us."
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.