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Review of Hair The Musical at the New Wimbledon Theatre

Hair the MusicalIn 1967 Hair took to the stage as a radical piece of protest theatre that shocked and liberated audiences with its blazon depiction of drug taking, racism and nudity. Since then its songs have become embedded in popular culture and its message of love and freedom have ensured it’s here to stay.

Hair follows a group of hippies living in New York City during the Vietnam War. They share glimpses of the lives and, most importantly, their political views during a time that divided the American nation. When tribe member Claude is conscripted to serve in the army, the problems of war become more local and they struggle to work out what course of action to take.

Hope Mill’s anniversary revival has definitely gained polish since it opened in 2016. The stage is decked out as a colourful hippie commune, with the band residing in raised huts and the walls adorned with brightly coloured streamers. The design doesn’t feel overly authentic but does convey the energy of the time with its in-your-face use of colour and texture.

The cast crackle with enthusiasm as they perform. They masterfully dodge the pitfalls of the over-the-top characters, making sure they always feel real and three dimensional. Their vocals almost lift the ceiling off the theatre with one spectacular vocal performance after another. Notably the female cast, led by Natalie Green and Aiesha Pease, really inject passion and strength into the songs. It’s almost impossible not to feel chills as their voices fill the auditorium. The show is effortlessly held together by Paul Wilkins as Claude. Not only is he an amazing singer but he deftly navigates Claude’s journey between what he wants to be and what society expects him to be. Claude is the only character really given the narrative and stage time for audience investment and no opportunity is wasted in Wilkin’s performance. Marcus Collins does well in the role of Hud and has a natural, free-flowing sense of movement that’s magnetic as he dances around the stage. The only slight miss-step with casting is X-factors Jake Quickenden as Berger. He certainly has the confidence and vocals for the role, but in his hands, Berger feels like a secondary character instead of the hyper-charismatic ring-leader of the piece. He does, however, show promise as a musical theatre performer and with this being his first venture into the genre, hopefully, he will develop into the role as the tour progresses.

Any faults in this production lie in its habit to air on the side of conservatism. The set is just a bit too pristine, the choreography never really let’s go and the famous moment of on-stage nudity that once defined the show is totally shied away from; taking place in dim light at the back of the stage. These issues create a detachment that is hard to overcome and, although an exhilarating evening is had by all, you never really get the sense of what it was like to be living in that place at that time.

That being said, the heart-breaking cries of the show’s final number, ‘Let the Sunshine in’, are a rousing call to arms for a time when love will overcome hate; a message made even more poignant in the knowledge that, 50 years on, we haven’t even begun to make steps towards making this a reality. Although it may not be the controversial piece of political theatre it once was, Hair still has the power to spark a fire of revolution in your soul during our own time of political unrest. Its message is timeless and it’s soundtrack unrivalled.

4 stars

Review by Dan Reeves

 

Welcome to the ‘Age of Aquarius’. It’s 1967 and Hair’s hippie ‘tribe’ youngsters in the East Village of New York are yearning to change the world, questioning authority and the American flag. Wild, colourful, sexually liberated and free, they are united in protest and song, under the shadow of the Vietnam War.

Cast and Creatives
Berger – Jake Quickenden
Sheila – Daisy Wood-Davis
Jeanie – Alison Arnopp
Margaret Mead – Tom Bales
Hud – Marcus Collins
Ensemble – Louise Francis
Mom – Natalie Green
Ensemble – David Heywood
Woof – Bradley Judge
Dionne – Aiesha Pease
Ensemble – Laura Sillett
Ensemble – Spin
Crissy – Kelly Sweeney
Claude – Paul Wilkins

Hair the Musical
New Wimbledon Theatre
Booking to 30th March 2019

Palace Theatre, Manchester
8th to 13th April 2019

What’s On at Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
29th April to 4th May 2019

Sunderland Empire
6th May to 11th May 2019

Liverpool Empire
20th to 25th May 2019

New Theatre Oxford
24th to 29th June 2019

TheatreRoyal Brighton
8th to 13th July 2019

Milton Keynes Theatre
King’s Theatre Glasgow
15th to 20th July 2019

Seating Plan & Ticket Bookings

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1 thought on “Review of Hair The Musical at the New Wimbledon Theatre”

  1. I cannot believe we saw the same play. It was a very poor production with iconic music badly arranged with a total lack of Love and Emotion…….

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