Gerome Ragni

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 442

Gerome Ragni 1942– James Rado 1932–

Ragni—American lyricist, playwright, and actor.

Rado—(Born James Radomski) American lyricist, composer, playwright, actor, and producer.

The rock musical play Hair has become a dramatized over-view of the 1960s. The Ragni-Rado lyrics span nearly all of the issues protested and embraced by the youth of that decade. The human body, marijuana, love, and sex were celebrated by the characters while they showed their contempt for war, pollution, and the establishment in general. The rebellion even extended to the conventions of the theater as the musical progressed in a haphazard fashion. The characteristics of the show denounced by some critics, such as the lack of a plot and the seemingly unchoreographed dancing, reflected the hippie movement that advocated a carefree, unconventional lifestyle.

The Ragni-Rado lyrics and Galt MacDermot's music have most often been cited as the best aspects of the play. The lyrics have been called fresh, innocent, and vital, but also rambling and of little importance. The play was also criticized for its idealized depiction of flower children and its failure to show even one sympathetic adult. Hair's topical characterization of the sixties weakened its effect and relevancy as early as three years after its opening. However, many critics felt that although it was a period piece, it would always have meaning for those who were a part of that era's counterculture.

Since Hair, Ragni and Rado have worked independently of each other. Their individual work, however, is not considered as proficient or important as Hair. In Rado's play Rainbow which could have been the sequel to Claude's story in Hair, a young man is killed in Viet Nam and taken to the rainbow world. The lyrics of Rainbow were written by Rado, in collaboration with his brother Ted. Their use of surreal imagery has caused reviewers to compare these lyrics to the works of Lewis Carroll. Rado's music for the play, combining country, big band, and show business styles, was better received than other rock musicals for its coherence.

Ragni's Dude was not so critically acclaimed as Hair and Rainbow. The play was an allegory about "that great theater in the sky" and the loss of innocence. It was said to be unclear in its allegorical representations. The critics see the lack of structure that was so successful in Hair as failing here and generally considered it an ambitious work that fell short of its potential.

Together, Ragni and Rado created a work that was a statement for its time and appealed to theater-goers and critics alike. Although the context of Hair is considered somewhat outdated today, the issues examined remain a part of our consciousness.

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Clive Barnes