Reviewed by Tricia Shaw
2018 saw the 50th anniversary of Hair’s first performance in London just days after the theatre censorship law was repealed. Set in America at the time of the Vietnam War, Hair follows the lives of a “tribe” of young American hippies in the East Village of New York. Anti-war, pro peace, free love and liberation they challenge and question authority. The story is centred mainly on the characters Berger (Jake Quickenden), Sheila (Daisy Wood-Davis), Claude (Paul Wilkins), Jeannie (Alison Arnopp) and Woof (Bradley Judge) and references the events of the time such as the anti-war protests and the be-ins. When Claude receives his draft papers, he struggles to reconcile his duty with his beliefs and his friends don’t want him to leave them. Will he burn his draft paper at the protest?
Drugs such as marijuana and LSD played an important role in the liberated hippie life and they are referenced throughout the show with some excellent visual effects reflecting the hallucinogenic induced trips. The costumes reflect the free-flowing flower power with their bright colours and amazing patterns. There is a fantastic range of wigs not to mention the bandanas and flower decorations that finish them off perfectly.
The stage set was also full of colour incorporating the musicians as part of the tribe set up in a variety of huts and tents. With no scene changes necessary the pace of the show is extremely fast moving with seamless transitions between numbers. The cast is full of talented singers and dancers. The beautifully choreographed dances that flow so well with the rhythms of the slower songs are very visually appealing and are complemented by the amazingly energetic dances to some of the faster numbers.
The 50th anniversary show features all the iconic songs such as Aquarius, Donna, Ain’t Got No, Air, Good Morning Starshine, Let The Sun Shine In and the eponymous song Hair to name but a few. Particularly notable were the amazing voices of all the above named actors as well as Natalie Green (Cassie), Kelly Sweeney (Crissy). The dynamics were excellent and the quieter numbers were nice and easy on the ears.
It’s not a pantomime but audience participation is key to the show in places – watch out if you’re in the front rows as the cast may just pick on you! Those who have itchy feet and want to get up and dance on stage may find that the opportunity just presents itself at the end for those with seats in the stalls.
The show carries a 14+ age guidance due to the strong language, drugs references, racial slurs and nudity. Strobe lights are also used so it is not suitable for those with photosensitive epilepsy. It runs for 2½ hours including a 20 minute interval during which, at Milton Keynes, you can sit in the Piano Bar listening to the relaxing playing from the pianist, enjoy a drink or ice cream from one of the many bars, or purchase the Hair 50th anniversary special merchandise.
The UK tour of Hair directed by Jonathan O’Boyle is on at Milton Keynes until 20th July and then continues in Wolverhampton 23rd – 27th July before heading to Glasgow 7th – 10th August.
Tickets cost from £13 (plus £3.65 transaction fee).
Hair The Musical is at Milton Keynes Theatre from 15-20 July 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes or call the box office on 0844 8717652.
Milton Keynes Theatre, 500 Marlborough Gate, Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK9 3NZ