When you think of New York musicals from the 1970s, big and glitzy affairs like The Wiz or A Chorus Line might come to mind. But in off and off-off Broadway theaters, low-budget productions reflected the city's fiscal and social realities. Musicals like Hair, Oh! Calcutta! and I'm Getting My Act Together And Taking It On The Road dealt frankly with politics, sex, and gay rights.
Elizabeth Wollman writes about the era in her new book Hard Times: The Adult Musical in 1970s New York City. Talking to Soundcheck host John Schaefer, she defined "adult musicals" as those that dealt with the sexual revolution, feminism, or gay rights movement during the decade.
Another common thread: Many featured simulated on-stage sex and full-frontal nudity with an assortment of male and female actors.
In the 1970s, "Broadway was kind of suffering. Financially a little bit, but especially creatively," Wollman said. "The youth movement in the 1960s was rejecting their parents and the previous generation as tastemakers -- and demanding their own entertainment."
The song-studded Hair and long-running Oh! Calcutta! spawned Broadway productions and enjoyed mainstream success. Others, like Let My People Come and Stag Movie, are less familiar to today's theatergoers.
"Some of these didn't really stand the test of time because maybe you're not going to play this music for your kids and dance around the living room with them," Wollman explains. "So they don't enter the public consciousness in the same way, but a number of them were really striking to me."
These boundary pushing musicals also left their mark on future Broadway productions of Company, La Cage Aux Folles and The Falsettos. As changing sexual mores from the 1960s continued to evolve in the '70s, Wollman says, "I think that entertainment products like this did influence the tide."
Your stories: Did you see "adult musicals" like Hair, Oh! Calcutta! and Let My People Come? Tell us why you attended -- and what you thought of them. Post a comment below or leave a voicemail at 866-939-1612.