It has been spreading peace and love for the last 50 years and now classic musical Hair has come to Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre as part of an anniversary tour.
Words: Will Ashworth
The show that caused a real stir when it first opened in the sixties due to its depictions of activism, drug use and nudity may not be quite as shocking by today’s standards, but is certainly still an impressive spectacle.
Hair tells the story of a bunch of free-loving, pot-smoking tribe of hippie youngsters trying to navigate their way through life in an oppressive America that is heading to war in Vietnam. One of the group Claude (Paul Wilkins), is then conscripted into the army and is sent into moral turmoil as he tries to reconcile his pacifist beliefs with pressures of national service.
Even though this is an old show dealing with historical political issues, there is an argument that the subject matter still has relevance with the uncertain time in politics and also the recent environmental activism that brought London to a standstill.
Of course, with a show like this there is always going to be a difficult line to tread between nostalgia and maintaining a modern-day credibility – which this production just about manages.
The real strength is this show, however, is in the music. Hair is somewhat different to most musicals, particularly in the modern era, as it is almost entirely performed through song with very little in the way of regular dialogue. It’s a good job then that this show has a hit list of some of the catchiest and most recognisable tunes you will ever see on stage.
It opens with the timeless Aquarius and is followed by a host of other classics such as I Got Life, Good Morning Starshine and the uplifting Let the Sunshine In. This impressive list of songs was also pleasingly matched by stellar vocal performances from the entire cast that included X Factor alumni Jake Quickenden and Marcus Collins.
There were also plenty of chances for the audience to get involved as the cast interacted with the front row, danced and sung in the aisles and then invited some of the patrons up on to the stage for the barnstorming finale of Let the Sunshine In which was met by a rapturous reception and the entire theatre on its feet. Totally awesome vibes man…