10:42 | 19th February 2019

Reviews: Live Shows

Tue 11 May, 2010
By Robert Ingham

You even have the chance to get up on stage and sing/dance along to “Let The Sunshine In (Reprise)”.

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Beads, Flowers, Freedom, Happiness - HAIR the musical comes to London.

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HAIR has exploded into theatreland with incredible energy and fervour, infectious from beginning to end. From the moment the band bursts into life with “Aquarius” you are swept along in the Feel Good Factor which rarely lets up.

In a nutshell, HAIR is set in 1968 and is about the “Tribe”, a group of hippies who get together, get high and get off, all whilst singing catchy songs.
The leaders of the tribe are Berger, a tripped-out wildcard, happy to do nothing but take drugs, and Claude, who is caught between his desire to be part of the tribe and his duty to his fight for his country.

Sheila, Berger’s girlfriend, is an avid protester against the war in Vietnam and rallies the tribe to join her.

That’s really the plot. People come, people go, songs are sung and flowers are shared. And whilst some of the songs are not entirely memorable, what is left is an enormous sense of fun.

The cast, the original Broadway line-up, are as effervescent as a freshly opened bottle of coke and sing with gusto. Stand out numbers are “Be-In”, “Flesh Failures” and, of course, the title number “HAIR”.

Unfortunately, there are a few holes in the show. Whilst the cast do their absolute best and their costumes are vibrant, it is all rather stagey. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this, but this is a show that is about togetherness. It’s about being your own person and standing up for what you believe in, but there are times when the cast are directed so precisely, it feels the core values of the Tribe are forgotten.

The other aspect to mention is the scene where the cast appear naked. This part comes just before the interval and, when HAIR was first performed in 1967, it came at a time when theatre censorship had just been lifted. It was a political statement against the war in Vietnam. It was a statement about sexuality and sexual freedom - strong values within the hippie culture. Having a cast of 24 bearing their all was seen as two fingers up to the rule book and it spoke volumes.
Which, unfortunately, doesn’t translate to this production.

The Director opts for a brightly lit Claude as the rest of the cast fade onto the dimly lit stage singing, and this makes the whole point on them being naked a bit pointless. For me, this song is Claude bearing his soul, showing us his inner self as if to say “this is who I am, accept me”. More could have been made of the scene without it becoming sensational or controversial.

Having said all this, HAIR is sheer brilliance. It is funny, moving and inviting. You want to be part of the tribe, you want to get up on stage and shake your hair with the cast. You feel the music and find yourself tapping away to the tunes. You even have the chance to get up on stage and sing/dance along to “Let The Sunshine In (Reprise)”.

Plus, you never know who might be there. I bumped into an old college buddy I had lost contact with years ago and who I’m meeting up with next week, surely proving the theme of togetherness still echoes throughout the 40 years this show has been performed? Excellent!

HAIR is on at the Gielgud Theatre right now!


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