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James Rado
Born James Radomski
January 23, 1932
Occupation Stage, film, television actor

James Rado (born James Radomski on January 23, 1932), is an American actor, writer and composer, best known as the co-author, along with Gerome Ragni, of 1967's groundbreaking American tribal love-rock musical Hair. He and Ragni were nominated for the 1969 Tony Award for best musical, and they won for best musical at the Grammy Awards in 1969.



Early life

In college, Rado majored in Speech and Drama and began writing songs. He co-authored two musical shows at the University of Maryland, Interlude and Interlude II. After graduation, followed by two years in the U.S. Navy, he returned to school in Washington, D.C. for graduate work at The Catholic University of America, where he co-authored a musical revue called Cross Your Fingers. He wrote the lyrics and music for all of his early songs.[1]

He then moved to New York where he studied acting with Lee Strasberg and also wrote pop songs which he recorded with his own band, James Alexander and the Argyles.[1] Rado's first Broadway show was Marathon '33 in 1963. In 1966, Rado originated the Broadway role of Richard Lionheart in The Lion in Winter by James Goldman, starring Robert Preston and Rosemary Harris.

He met Gerome Ragni in 1964, when they acted together in the off-Broadway play Hang Down Your Head and Die.[1][2] Later, both Rado and Ragni were cast in the roles of Tom and Tolan in the Chicago company of Mike Nichols' production of The Knack, by Ann Jellicoe.


Rado and Ragni became friends and began writing Hair together in late 1964.[1] Rado explained, "We were great friends. It was a passionate kind of relationship that we directed into creativity, into writing, into creating this piece. We put the drama between us on stage."[3] He recalled, "There was so much excitement in the streets and the parks and the hippie areas, and we thought if we could transmit this excitement to the stage it would be wonderful.... We hung out with them and went to their Be-Ins [and] let our hair grow.[4]

Hair premiered off-Broadway in October 1967 and opened on Broadway in April 1968, running for 1,750 performances. Simultaneous productions in cities across the United States and Europe followed shortly thereafter, including a successful London production, which ran for 1,997 performances. Since then, numerous productions have been staged around the world, spawning dozens of recordings of the musical. Some of the songs from its score became Top 10 hits, and a feature film adaptation was released in 1979. A Broadway revival opened on March 31, 2009, earning strong reviews and winning the Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for best revival of a musical.

Although he he did not play the part of Claude when the show premiered Off-Broadway, Rado originated the role of Claude on Broadway, performing opposite Ragni as Berger. He also played Claude in the later Los Angeles production. The main characters of Claude and Berger were autobiographical to a degree, with Rado's Claude being the pensive romantic. It later became clear just how true to life the characters' chemistry actually was when, in a 2008 interview with The Advocate, Rado publicly described himself for the first time as omnisexual and spoke openly of being Ragni's lover.[5]

Post Hair

After the success of Hair, Rado and Ragni went their separate ways for a period of time in the early Seventies. While Ragni and Hair composer Galt MacDermot collaborated on Dude, Rado wrote a musical entitled The Rainbow Rainbeam Radio Roadshow, or Rainbow for short, collaborating on the book with his brother Ted Rado and contributing his own music and lyrics. Rainbow opened Off-Broadway at the Orpheum Theater in December 1972.[6] The musical is a sequel of sorts to Hair with a character called Man who was killed in the Vietnam War and who now lives in Rainbow land.[7] Clive Barnes gave it a positive review in the New York Times, writing "[Rainbow] is joyous and life-assertive. It is the first musical to derive from Hair that really seems to have the confidence of a new creation about it, largely derived from James Rado's sweet and fresh music and lyrics."[7]

Since then, Rainbow has been revised numerous times, in some developments becoming more explicitly a sequel to Hair (as when it became Rainbow: The Ghost of Vietnam in the late Nineties) and in others becoming more abstract (as in its newest version, initially titled Billy Earth: The New Rainbow and now known as American Soldier: The White Haunted House).[citation needed]

In 1974 he reunited with Ragni to co-write Sun: An Audio Movie, a show with music by Steve Margoshes[8] based on a play by New York writer Joyce Greller with themes about pollution and the environment.[citation needed] The musical (then titled YMCA) was initially staged for backers in 1976, in a workshop directed by John Vaccaro, with appearances by Ruby Lynn Reyner and Annie-Joe Edwards.[citation needed] Rado and Ragni would later write another musical together, again with Steve Margoshes, entitled Jack Sound and His Dog Star Blowing His Final Trumpet. The show ran at La MaMa in the summer of 1978.[6]

Current Projects

In the past few years, Rado has been active in developing new productions of Hair, including the 11 city 1994 national tour which he directed, and the 2006 CanStage production in Toronto.[9][10] He has also been active in redeveloping Sun: An Audio Movie. In 1998, a version of Sun with a score by Hair collaborator MacDermot briefly appeared in concert form before the show reverted to the original score by Margoshes.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d Rado, James (February 14, 2003). "Hairstory - The Story Behind the Story", Retrieved on April 11, 2008
  2. ^ "Hang Down You Head and Die". Lortel Archives: The Internet Off-Broadway Database. Retrieved on January 9, 2009.
  3. ^ 40 years of 'Hair', Newark Star-Ledger (July 19, 2008). Retrieved on July 26, 2008.
  4. ^ Taylor, Kate (September 14, 2007). The Beat Goes On, The New York Sun. The New York Sun, One, SL, LLC. Retrieved on May 27, 2008.
  5. ^ "The Man Behind the Hair", The Advocate, August 13, 2008,, retrieved 2008-09-06 
  6. ^ a b James Rado - complete guide to the Playwright,, The Playwrights Database
  7. ^ a b New York Times review
  8. ^ "James Rado",, Retrieved 1/07/10
  9. ^ Washington Times 3/6/94
  10. ^ Official Hair Website: Journal

External links



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