Hair Production Photos By Johan Persson
With a book by Gerome Ragni and James Rado and music by Galt MacDermot, Hair the musical opened on Broadway in April 1968 and in London’s West End Shaftsbury Theatre in September of the same year. In 2009, Hair won the Tony Award for best revival on Broadway. With the portrayal of bisexuality, profanity, illegal drug use and nudity, Hair the musical caused controversy and was the first piece of musical theatre to be described as a “rock musical”.
To mark the 50th anniversary of this ground breaking musical, the production is currently touring the UK.
Set in the late sixties, Hair tells the story of “the tribe”, a group of long haired politically active hippies living a bohemian life in New York, using a series of musical vignettes and limited dialog. The main character Claude must decide if he will follow in the footsteps of his friends and resist being drafted or give in to parental pressure and fight in Vietnam.
Maeve Black’s costume and stage design is simple and effective; the stage is framed by a large chain linked fence decorated with various coloured ribbons as are two large trees. Tree stumps surrounded by flowers and grass running along the front edge of the stage draw the viewer into the hippie commune world of “the Tribe”.
The talented live band (Connor Gallagher and Alex Crawford on guitar, Tom Hutch on drums and Andrew Richards on bass) lead by musical director Gareth Bretherton on keys, are positioned in a series of different shaped wooden huts and remain on stage throughout the production.
William Whelton’s choreography is creative and captures the themes of the piece; love, sex, drug induced hallucinations, war and peace. The nude scene at the end of the first act is concise and artistic which is very effective.
For me the power of this musical lies in the group numbers, this very talented cast under the direction of Gareth Bretherton gave breath-taking performances throughout the piece, my favourites being Good evening starshine and Let the sunshine in.
Female cast members Natalie Green (Cassie), Aiesha Pease (Jeanie) Daisy Wood-Davis (Sheila) and Alison Arnopp (Dionne) each delivered vocals full of power and emotion. Jake Quickenden (Berger) gives a performance that is delivered with the right combination of goofiness and comedic timing.
Paul Wilkins has a strong voice that gave me shivers, and held the show together perfectly, as the lead character Claude. Marcus Collins gives an outstanding performance as Hud, with his charismatic stage presence, soulful voice and free flowing dance movements.
Hair may not be the ground breaking piece of theatre it once was, however, its message of love overpowering hate for me is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago. It appears that I was not alone in my thoughts as the audience spontaneously rose to their feet, some joining the cast on stage during the encore, as the people of Birmingham really did Let the sunshine in.
Hair the musical runs at the Alex Birmingham from 29th of April until the 4th of May when it continues its national tour.
We say: “The people of Birmingham really did let the sunshine in with this powerful, soulful production!”