Gerome Ragni’s life changed when the musical Hair became a hit. Some say his follow up musical, Dude (aka The Highway Life), was an incomprehensible mess. Others say it was his attempt to write about his struggles with his new found success. The New York Times wrote a fascinating article on the collapse of Dude. Reviews and other behind the scenes articles are archived here. A full song list is here. Dude closed after 16 performances.
Some fun facts I learned from the articles include:
- Dude was played by a white adult who couldn't sing. He was replaced by a black child who could sing, who later shared the role with a black adult who sang the “mature” songs as “Big Dude.”
- At one point the set was covered in dirt which kicked up dust into the audience. The set was later “watered down” leaving the actors covered in mud.
- Gerome Ragni had played Berger in the original cast of Hair and had wanted to play the role of God, (aka “#33”), in Dude. Since the role of Dude was based on himself he would have been pardoning himself on stage for his youthful indiscretions. Producers wouldn't let him play the role as he still needed to write a second act.
- Gerome Ragni asked to release 100 butterflies into the audience at the top of each performance.
- Nell Carter was in the original cast. Here's a clip of her song "So Long Dude."