A trip to the London suburbs to see the quintessential 60s musical, Hair.
As it was unfolding I started to think that we, in 2019, on the 50th anniversary of the show, are now as far from the Vietnam conflict as audiences of 1969 were from the Great War when the musical Oh What a Lovely War was premiered.
I’ve seen three productions of Hair. The first, at Manchester Opera House in 1989, shocked my companion school pal who bleated “What have you brought me to?” during Woof’s solo song. At this point the musical was twenty years old, and it had been ten years since the film version – with a changed, but no less powerful, ending.
The original cast recordings from Broadway and London may sound like museum pieces now, but the songs transcend the years and make the emotional connection to audiences now.
The most recent production I saw before this one was the transfer from Broadway to the West End, ten years ago. At that show I introduced my husband to Hair and we ended up dancing on the stage in the finale!
So, a lot of history with me and this show. This new production ran at The Vaults last year, and now returns on a UK tour, of which Wimbledon is the first stop. The show is billed as new, fresh, and lively, and even at first glance the colours and slogans of the age of peace and love get everyone in the mood.
Jonathan O’Boyle directs and William Whelton choreographs, keeping Galt MacDermot’s music moving and the lyrics of Gerome Ragni and James Rado relevant and engaging, with the young cast dancing and weaving their way through those final innocent years.
Jake Quickenden (Berger), Paul Wilkins (Claude), Marcus Collins (Hud), Bradley Judge (Woof), Kelly Sweeney (Crissy), Daisy Wood-Davis (Sheila), Alison Arnopp (Jeanie), Aiesha Pease (Dionne) and Tom Bales (Margaret Mead) shine in the talented cast with my favourite songs “Hair”, “Good Morning Starshine”, “Where Do I Go” and “Let The Sunshine In” packing a definite punch.
If you’re open to the Summer of Love and the anti-war message (which somehow retains its currency), you will enjoy this production which doesn’t stint on the dramatics but also has fun.
Ben M Rogers’s lighting design of mainly reds evokes love, death and anger while the moments of rain and sleet add much to the overall ambience of Maeve Black’s simple set in which a cage and boxes for the guitarist and drummer have some prominence.
Will Hair survive to its 60th anniversary? I don’t know. What seems certain is that its wonderful score and its passionate message still has life in it yet.
Photo credits – Johan Persson.