Reviewed by Jenny Bray
The musical tells the story of a group of hippy teenagers in New York in 1967 that are heavily into drugs, peace, free love and are political activists. They are against national service fighting in the Vietnam war. However, one of their tribe, Claude (Paul Wilkins) gets called to fight, which is the storyline that strings the tracks together while he is conflicted as to what to do.
This is the 50th anniversary of a musical that is said to have been the first rock musical of its kind. It was created by James Rado and Gerome Ragni, both actors. They penned the main characters around their own personalities (which means that they must have been fairly flamboyant at that time!). It was originally shown in 1967 off Broadway as it was repeatedly rejected by Broadway. However, just a year later, in 1968, it got taken on by Broadway, albeit with a review and the addition of 13 new songs. This version was turned in to a feature film in 1979, although I’d not seen it or heard of this show before.
With multicultural characters and drugs and sex being covered during a more reserved time and a song called ‘Sodomy’ this was never going to be a conservative show. There are drug references and drug taking throughout as well as various references to free loving and changing partners within the group. Some of the second half shows Claude’s trip, which is very colourful as ultraviolet lighting is used during those scenes.
The opening scene shows the cast lining up in front of the multi coloured screen, lighting up joints before going through to the main stage to start the show. The rest of the first half of the show introduces all the characters, including the first introduction, of Berger (Jake Quickenden), who refers to his manhood as banana burger and cheeseburger and is quick to drop his trousers to show very small pants. Claude and Woof (Bradley Judge) are also long haired, open shirted hippies. Sheila (Daisy Wood-Davis) bounces around Berger and Claude enthusiastically. Jeanie (Alison Arnopp) announces her love for Claude but admits being knocked up by a ‘crazy speed freak’. The standout singer of the show for me was Cassie (Natalie Green), who had a wide-ranging voice and belted out some key solos and more operatic aspects of some of the tracks.
The standout songs for me were; This is the age of the coming of ‘Aquarius’ which was the first song but also partially featured on a few other occasions and ‘Let the Sun Shine In’ which was the last song to be sung. However, this is a musical packed full of songs, over 40 of them, so there are lots of tracks that come inbetween! In fact, there is little storyline in between the songs as most of the show is singing. I got lost with a couple of the songs as several of the cast were singing over each other, but due to the lack of plot it didn’t then mean losing track of any storyline.
The cast are very energetic and totally believable, leaving you immersed in some very trippy scenes with them. There are definite helpings of raucousness and raciness throughout. I wasn’t aware of how the first half ends prior to the interval, so that was interesting. All was done artistically in low light!
The show is on at the Lyceum theatre in Sheffield. The theatres are in central Sheffield and fairly easy to get to. The Charles Street Q parks nearby offers the first hour free if you get a ticket from a member of the theatre staff. The staff are always welcoming and friendly and there are bars on the ground and first floors and a kiosk on the ground floor selling sweets and soft drinks.
The stage setting is very simple for this show and stays the same throughout, which looks a little like the inside of a large tent made from lots of different coloured ribbons, although I couldn’t actually tell you what it was supposed to represent. The musicians are positioned within 3 hut type shapes set within the set. They are also dressed in hippy gear with long hair and bandanas so blend in. There is a constant smell of joss sticks floating gently over the audience.
The costumes were 1960’s hippy with flares and crochet a must, open shirts for the boys and cropped tops for the girls.
At the end the cast do a reprise of ‘Let the Sun Shine In’ and pull a lot of the first few rows of the audience to the stage to sing and dance along. We had a spare seat a few rows in front of us so Woof climbed on that and gyrated in front of us rather than try to drag us on stage!
I went in not sure what to expect but I really enjoyed it. It’s definitely different to other musicals. If you’re looking for a musical that is a bit more risqué than your normal shows then I’d highly recommend it. It may not be seen as being as controversial as when it first came out but that aspect gives it a different edge to other shows.
Tickets cost from £17 (booking fees may apply).
Hair The Musical is at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield from 1-6 July 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call the box office on 0114 249 6000.
Lyceum Theatre, Norfolk St, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 1DA | 0114 249 6000