Having taken a heavily European-influenced stance on recent programming, London’s Gate Theatre turns its attention across the Atlantic for its autumn season with two American pieces, including the first-ever musical to be produced at the venue.

Gate associate director Daniel Kramer (Woyzeck at the Gate, Through the Leaves at Southwark Playhouse and in the West End) will direct a 20-strong production of Hair at the 70-seat Gate, running from 22 September to 8 October (previews from 12 September).

As the press release points out, although the self-styled “American Tribal Love Rock Musical”, written for the then burgeoning youth movement in the US, is usually done on a larger scale, its first outing was in a 90-seat Off-Broadway theatre. The original Broadway production, premiered at the Biltmore Theatre in 1968, ran for four years while a more recent West End revival had a brief season at the Old Vic in 1993. Hair was also famously made into a 1979 film, directed by Milos Forman and starring John Savage, Treat Williams and Beverley D’Angelo.

When Claude, a country boy from Oklahoma, arrives in late 1960s New York City, he falls in with a group of hippies called the Tribe, led by Berger, who falls in love with rich girl Sheila. Their free love and drug-enhanced happiness is disrupted by Claude’s Vietnam draft orders.

Hair has book and lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado and music by Galt MacDermot. The score includes “Aquarius”, “Ain’t Got No”, “Got No Life”, “Good Morning Starshine” and the title song. The Gate production will have musical supervision by Stephen Brooker.

It will be followed, from 21 November to 17 December 2005 (previews from 16 November) by a new production of Eugene O'Neill’s 1920 play The Emperor Jones. Rarely staged, the expressionistic piece is set against the backdrop of a brewing rebellion and records the disintegration of a mind intoxicated by greed and power.

O’Neill’s better known plays include Long Day’s Journey into Night, Anna Christie, Strange Interlude, The Iceman Cometh and Mourning Becomes Electra. The new production will be directed by Gate artistic director Thea Sharrock and designed by Richard Hudson.

- by Terri Paddock