Book and Lyrics: Gerome Ragni and James Rado
Music: Galt McDermot
Director: Jonathan O’Boyle
Reviewer: Maggie Constable
Some 52 years after Hair the Musical first shocked and delighted audiences in equal measure, the 50th-anniversary tour arrives in Milton Keynes. Time to let your hair down, relive those halcyon days and sing/dance along to anthemic numbers such as Aquarius and Good Morning Starshine. It is said that this is the original rock musical.
The story follows a group of pacifist Bohemians living the hippie dream in New York in the late 60s. Far away the Vietnam war rages on and these youngsters battle against conscription and their parents’ views. The U.S is a nation divided. Young Claude epitomises the dichotomy when he is called to war and must decide what to do. Should he, like friends before him, resist being drafted or should he give in to pressure from his parents? It is a time, too, of sexual liberation. So we witness the group’s friendships and romantic liaisons, with all that this entails, along with their use of psychedelic drugs. Many of the issues covered in this story are still pertinent today, whether it be war, race issues or drugs.
The whole cast just fizzes with energy and dynamism and every cast member clearly enjoys the whole show. The joy is certainly infectious. We charge along through the story, which is told not so much in the conversations as in the songs, of which there is a plethora – there are 25 in Act 1 alone. It is a very pacy first act, which introduces all the characters and the main themes.
Paul Wilkins takes on the role of Claude, the person around whom it all revolves, and really the one character given the chance to tell the tale. He does so with absolute conviction and credibility. A strong singing voice too.
Jake Quickenden, as Berger, Claude’s best friend, gives us a believable joker and sex-driven flirt with a constant smile. He is a tad understated as tribe leader, if lively. Quickenden is nonetheless an assured performer with clear vocals. Aiesha Pease’s Dionne is nothing short of incredible with her powerful and passionate voice and real stage presence. Her rendition of Aquarius, the opener to the show, is fabulous. Tom Bales does a tremendous and very funny tour de force as Margaret Mead, engaging members of the audience panto style. Daisy Wood-Davis performs the part of Sheila with a quiet naturalness which contrasts well with other performances. It works and her singing voice is beautiful.
Design by Maeve Black is full of colour and texture with streamers lining the walls and a central tent, all of which depict the happy commune in which these young hippie types exist, even if it does seem a bit squeaky clean. The talented musicians sit around and above the stage in shed-like structures.
Act 2, which centres cleverly around Claude’s ‘trip’ is even faster than the first and builds to a wonderful and very moving crescendo with Let The Sun Shine In. The message of peace remains.
No spoilers but the ending has us all feeling as one and we leave the theatre with a song in our hearts in every sense.
Runs Until 20 July 2019 and on tour | Image: Contributed