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HAIR THE MUSICAL

Theatre review: Hair the Musical

Hair raises the roof at New Wimbledon Theatre. By Jenny Booth

Sitting through so-so tribute shows, I sometimes start to wonder whether clunky live theatre has a future compared to Hollywood’s glossy CGI wonders. And then there comes along a revival like Hair, which opened at New Wimbledon Theatre last night, whose second act was at times so spellbinding it reminded me that there is nothing so powerful and uplifting as the live stage. When a group of talented actors mesh together whole-heartedly, singing, dancing and moving, then it connects straight to powerful tribal instincts hardwired into our brains.

Hair is a hymn to hippiedom in all its idealism, hedonism and emotional mess. The plot is deceptively simple – Claude [Paul Wilkins, excellent], a pivotal member of a counter-culture tribe, has been drafted to serve in the Vietnam war. The group is stirred from its haze of pleasure to try to convince him not to answer the draft, but thoughtful Claude’s idealism urges him to go.

The heart of act two is Claude’s drug-dream after smoking some super-strong weed, re-enacting the story of America from the arrival of the white man to the present. One scabrously satirical sketch after another vents the young hippy’s anger that freedom and equality have repeatedly been betrayed in America. The brilliant, hallucinogenic sequence climaxes as the tribe go outside into the snow to search for Claude, with the mournful but uplifting anthem Let The Sunshine In.

HAIR THE MUSICAL

Credit: Johan Persson

As the song died away, there were exuberant scenes. The audience (packed with friends and fellow actors for producer’s night) surged up for a standing ovation, and stayed up for the remainder of the show. The cast wept with pride and relief that they had a hit, and invited the public to dance on stage. Reality TV show [X Factor, Dancing On Ice, I’m A Celebrity] star Jake Quickenden, who plays love god Berger with the bounciness of an Afghan puppy, strode through the auditorium balancing on the seats until he found director Jonathan O’Boyle and gave him a smacking kiss on his bald head.

It’s not a flawless show. The first half was slow, as first halves often are. But there’s a lot to like. Key to its success was that everyone gave it their all, from Aiesha Pease’s gutsy singing to the superb musicians who went into overdrive as the show ended.⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Hair The Musical: New Wimbledon Theatre, Thur 21 Mar 2019 – Sat 30 Mar 2019. Buy tickets here.

 

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