Theatre Hawke's Bay starts one of its more interesting auditions series' in Hastings tomorrow when it holds the first auditions for its staging of once-controversial 1960s hit American tribal-love rock musical Hair.

It comes R18, but the hopefuls still need to be young, or at least be able to be made to look younger than they are. Makeup people can do wonderful things.

They won't necessarily need lots of hair of their own. They have five months to get it on, but there will be a few wigs in the wardrobe if needed.

One or two will need to be able to go nude for about 20 seconds each night of the three-week season opening in The Playhouse Theatre on September 1.

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Theatre HB production manager Jacquie Hills said that despite the small-theatre environment, they won't be trying anything different from the original as the company gets in ahead of an expected wave of 50th anniversary Hair productions over the next two years.

Based on the hippy counter-culture and sexual revolution of the anti Vietnam war era, Hair was first performed in October 1967, but yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of its debut on Broadway at the start of a season which eventually stretched to 1750 shows.

It produced such hits as title song Hair, Good Morning Starshine and the medley Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In .

An Australian production broke box-office records through 1969-1971 before heading to New Zealand, where the cast album was banned from airplay because of some of the show's language, where controversy over the brief display of nudity still raged, and people were still being kicked out of high school for having hair longer than over their collars and ears.

Hawke's Bay production director Ali Beal said last night the show has "nine to 12 leads" and lots of musical numbers, which she hopes will appeal to an array of talent from the region.

She said the characters share a 1960s commune lifestyle with a strong group dynamic so she will use a "group workshop approach" to the auditions.

"The tribe or group mentality is very important and this style of audition process combines theatre games, movement and workshop opportunities for the actors to feel supported and united," she said.

Ms Hills was unaware if Hair had been produced in Hawke's Bay, but production over the years has been rare compared with many other shows tried by local theatres.

The costs are higher than most and she hopes for sponsorship, and as well as the acting cast, the hunt is on for members of a traditional four to five piece rock band, and the clothing of the era, including the 24-inch bell-bottom jeans, the flowery shirts and the platform shoes. Some will have their own - or their parents'.

There'll be the theatre's own wardrobe, and then there will be op shops. And of course members of a "traditional" four to five piece rock band.

? Auditions for Hair will be held at The Playhouse Theatre, Hastings, starting tomorrow at 11am, and again next Sunday, May 8.