Show: Hair the Musical
Society: New Wimbledon Theatre (professional)
Venue: New Wimbledon Theatre (part of a UK tour)
Credits: Book and lyrics by Gerome Ragni & James Rado. Music by Galt MacDermot. Produced by Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment, Joseph Houston & William Whelton for Hope Mill Theatre, Ollie Rosenblatt for Senbla.
Performance Date: 28/03/2019
Paul Johnson | 29 Mar 2019 18:52pm
The 50th anniversary tour of Hair the Musical has kicked off at New Wimbledon Theatre this week and, following last night’s gala press performance, presents me with a rather frustrating angle for a review. On one hand we have Gerome Ragni, James Rado and Galt Macdermot’s brilliant songs, featuring famous numbers such as Aquarius, Ain’t Got no, I Got Life, Hair, Good Morning Starshine and Let the Sun Shine In. On the other, we have the trio’s extremely dated story representing what is arguably a somewhat irrelevant era when it comes to the world we now live in.
It is, of course, true that a multitude of plays and musicals also feature bygone eras, but when political movements and anti-establishment rallies are at the heart of the piece, the story really needs to resonate with modern audiences – and that’s despite the current Brexit negotiations doing their best to upset virtually the whole of society in one way or another. Admittedly, under the right-wing Trump administration, the left-wing of U.S. society isn’t at all happy right now. Nevertheless the times have vastly moved on from the Woodstock era.
‘Make Love, Not War’ is the strapline on which the whole show rests as the ‘tribal’ Hippie movement in late-60s America saw young people, who all worshiped free love and marijuana, demonstrate en masse against the country’s involvement in the Vietnam War. But with song titles (with some strong lyrics) including Colored Spade, I’m Black, Black Boys and White Boys, as well as an act II section which features several faux Red Indian accents and protesting Buddhist monks, modern audiences may find it difficult to accept elements of the story.
That said, the music of Hair is sublime and, in Aria Entertainment, Senbla and Hope Mill Theatre’s production, the 14-strong cast and 5-piece band (including MD Gareth Bretherton) are all at the very top of their game. In fact it’s well worth seeing the show just for the music… should you decide to ‘protest’ against the book.
Jake Quickenden (Berger) and Daisy Wood-Davis (Sheila) lead the cast, ensemble in nature, but boasting some incredible stand-out vocal performances. The extended Let the Sun Shine In after the curtain call turned the auditorium into a real party with audience members dancing onstage and the cast dancing in the stalls. I can’t praise the performers enough; I just hope they get to play to plenty of full houses, which they deserve. They’ll need to work twice as hard otherwise.
Maeve Black’s authentic set and costume design works well including some nicely done tent-style shelters to house members of the band. But it is Ben M. Rogers all-important lighting design that impresses the most, creating countless atmospheric scenes… including a dimly-lit pre-interval fully nude scene where, oddly, none of the cast appear to possess any pubic hair. In the late 60s, this area would have celebrated the show’s title.
Hair the Musical is at New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday, 30 March before continuing on tour.
- : admin
- : 28/03/2019