Hair: The Performance of Rebellion in American Musical Theatre of the 1960s

  • Sarah Browne

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis considers the musical, Hair as a seminal moment in musical theatre history. In examining this musical’s social and historical context, the study explores the ways in which Hair raises cultural consciousness through its approach to representing marginalised identities on-stage. The analysis presented illustrates how Hair considered America’s Others and in doing so, asserts that both race and gender are not fixed and are instead fluid, created in-process and in response to cultural influences. Exploring the intersections of race, gender, age, and popular culture, this thesis utilises an approach grounded in critical musicology to illustrate the manner in which Hair can be considered as a form of rebellion, or resistance enacted against the established traditions of the Broadway stage. The thesis argues that Hair is the product of a postmodern age and, in considering how the theatrical ‘text’ is re-imagined beyond its original production, further asserts that Hair has resonances that, in themselves take on new meanings in altered contexts. Concluding that the ways in which it both reflects and informs the fragmented society from which it evolves, and contributes to the development of musical theatre, this thesis ultimately proposes that Hair can be considered as utopian as a result of occupying a liminal space in the history of musical theatre and placing those on the margins at the centre of its narrative. This work explores the varied and multiple ways in which Hair speaks to the urgency – and possibility – of social change.
Date of Award20 Apr 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester
SupervisorMillie Taylor (Supervisor), Marilena Zaroulia (Supervisor) & Marianne Sharp (Supervisor)


  • Musical theatre
  • Hair
  • identity
  • race
  • gender
  • popular music
  • resistance
  • rebellion
  • utopia
  • counter-culture

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