Artist James Rado died June 21. He was 90 years old.
Mr. Rado (born James Alexander Radomski), was an actor, director, playwright, and composer, best known for his collaborations with the late Gerome Ragni. Together, the pair wrote Hair, a seminal hit that ushered in a new era for the American musical.
Born in Los Angeles, California, January 23, 1932, Mr. Rado was raised in Rochester, NY, and Washington D.C. before attending the University of Maryland, where he majored in Speech and Drama. He co-authored two musical shows during his time at university, Interlude and Interlude II, and later co-authored a musical revue named Cross Your Fingers while pursuing a graduate degree at The Catholic University of America. Mr. Rado spent two years in the U.S. Navy between undergraduate and graduate school, and later moved to New York to study acting with Lee Strasberg.
Mr. Rado began writing pop music with his band, James Alexander and the Argyles, before making his Broadway debut in the ensemble Marathon '33, which was quickly followed by Luther, Generation, and The Lion in Winter, where Mr. Rado played Richard Lionheart opposite Robert Preston and Rosemary Harris.
Mr. Rado met Gerome Ragni in 1964, when they worked together on the Off-Broadway play Hang Down Your Head and Die. The two became friends, and both Mr. Rado and Mr. Ragni were cast in the Chicago company of Mike Nichols' production of The Knack by Ann Jellicoe, cementing their bond.
The pair began writing Hair in late 1964. As Mr. Rado recalled, "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... 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."
Although Mr. Rado did not originate the role of Claude when the show premiered Off-Broadway, he played the role on Broadway opposite Mr. Ragni as Berger. The roles were somewhat autobiographical, and in a 2008 interview, Rado publicly described himself as omnisexual, and spoke openly of being Ragni's lover.
Hair premiered Off-Broadway in October 1967 and opened on Broadway in April 1968. The rock musical ran for 1,750 performances and spawned numerous productions around the world, along with a 1979 film adaptation. Many of the songs became popular hits, including "Aquarius," "Let The Sunshine In," and "Good Morning Starshine," and numerous recordings of the material have been released. The 2009 Broadway revival earned the Tony for Best Revival.
In addition to Hair, Mr. Rado wrote the musical The Rainbow Rainbeam Radio Roadshow with his brother Ted, and two further shows with Mr. Ragni, Sun (Audio Movie), and Jack Sound and His Dog Star Blowing His Final Trumpet on the Day of Doom.
Mr. Rado is survived by his brother Ted Rado, sister-in-law Kay Rado, nieces Melanie Khoury, Emily DiBona and Melissa Stuart, and his great-nieces and great-nephew.