Please note this piece was originally written for North West End and can be found here.
Kicking off the night with the Age of Aquarius, a trope that follows troubled lead character Claude through the whole show, Hair the Musical at the Palace Theatre Manchester was a scintillating, smoke filled, sixties soiree celebrating its 50th anniversary on the stage.
Attempts to modernise were made on entrance with some Trump recordings woven into the other cultural references made by the production. The whole show is a product of protest against terrible political events from 50 years ago, (namely the Vietnam War) so it makes sense for the non-conformist show to have a revival as we face similar levels of unrest.
Despite an extremely strong cast Hair is perhaps showing its age. The plot was very scarce, following Claude as he’s called for the army and how the Hippie commune he finds himself in reacts to this and other current events. There are exceptional scenes of protest with epic banner choreography, some extremely powerful music from the on stage band and a general message of peace and love, and pot. Which is all brilliant, but there were just a few moments where it felt like theatre has developed further in terms of narrative and message.
The young cast were exceptionally talented. Vocals in particular from Aiesha Pease and Natalie Green were spectacularly good, and Jake Quickenden’s energetic presence too was a highlight of the night. The cast are all seemingly permanently on stage, which is impressive as its all high-energy fun.
Some of the darker aspects of why the show deserves its place in musical history were a little brushed over, there was very little focus on the war itself until a scene near the end where Claude trips to a nightmarish vision of the war. Daisy Wood Davis’ character continually tries to bring in news of protests and progress but is dismissed somehow as an over earnest woman. The production generally probably needed the balance of why the Hippie movement was so important, to contrast all the darkness of the era.
However, Hair is very much a campy, all-accepting, be true to yourself love-in that is arguably the antidote to all the trouble going on outside the theatre doors. It’s one massive trip and yes, it’s true what they say, the whole cast do get naked! Ending on such a high (excuse the pun…) ‘Let The Sunshine’ sang as a chorus with all the audience participation to end the night was so uplifting and powerful.
For a fun filled night of entertainment Hair is a perfect night out filled with laughs and just a little nudity, but for something more meaningful in a world where protest is all too common, don’t go looking for deep and meaningful here.
Hair continues its anniversary tour around the UK until August 2019 and continues at The Palace until Saturday.