Step back in time for Hair The Musical at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre - review with pictures
There’s no doubt that the cultural revolution of the 1960’s changed the world and Hair the Musical, celebrating its 50th anniversary revival at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre this week, is one of the best examples of a show which depicts the shift in music, storyline and physical performance the decade embraced.
This current UK tour has played to rave reviews, although audiences have been tentative, probably due to the preconceived idea that the show is dated, the plot a little thin and the subject matter, although controversial back in the day is now no longer shocking.
It’s a delight therefore to find that this new version has been modernised to take into account relevant political themes and as a musical even fifty years on, Hair allows you to simply sit back, relax and enjoy the vibe.
Stepping back in time to a decade of such change is mind-blowing, especially for someone like me who was a young child in the sixties, but was naturally completely unaware of the rebellion and insurgence of the time.
The plot surrounds a tribe of politically active Bohemians living in New York, who constantly fight against conscription into the Vietnam war. Roommates Claude, Berger and Sheila and their friends battle against their parents and society in general, while embracing the era’s sexual revolution, but when Claude is called up to fight, he has to make the decision to stand by his friends and his Bohemian lifestyle or conform and serve his country.
Jonathan O’Boyle’s direction is second to none with outstanding storytelling, perfect casting and his obvious chemistry with choreographer William Whelton results in a well-researched, completely authentic production.
From the opening number, The Age of Aquarius, to the finale which saw audience members brought up on stage to join in the proceedings, the total commitment and belief in their characters by this incredibly talented company shone through.
Each and every role was performed with sheer abandonment and freedom, although it is obvious that a massive amount of hard work has done into portraying them.
The vocals were extraordinary and although the cast includes some well-known names, it is almost impossible to pick out individuals, so strong were all the performances.
That said, X Factor star, Marcus Collins, made an immediate impact with his stunning characterisation of Hud, while soap star Daisy Wood-Davies as Sheila was suitably love-struck and innocent. Her version of Good Morning Starshine was a highlight which left a warm glow around the theatre and many people singing along.
Natalie Green as Cassie offered another stand out performance, drawing the eye and certain the ears as her voice is nothing short of exceptional.
Paul Wilkins as Claude displayed outstanding dramatic ability, struggling to make a decision which will not only change his life but his persona too and like every other member of the cast offers exceptional vocals.
Reality TV star, Jake Quickenden is making his musical theatre debut in this 50th anniversary production of Hair and certainly had fans in the audience to cheer him on. He gave a totally believable portrayal as Berger with excellent vocals, although at times his lack of dramatic training was exposed by the stronger members of the cast.
The choreography appears spontaneous and unstructured, although this is deliberate and the well drilled cast executed Whelton’s high-energy routines with confidence.
The score of Hair is without doubt one of the largest ever written with no less than 32 musical numbers in total, including The Age of Aquarius, Let the Sun Shine In, My Hippie Life, Where Do I Go?, Electric Blues and the title song of course; you won’t be spoilt for choice.
I think it is important to note that there was a slight dip in the middle of Act Two, as is the case in many shows, but the last fifteen minutes of the show were exceptional and let’s face it, that’s what you remember.
Maeve Black’s set is psychedelic, colourful and exuberant, while having the small but extremely talented band on stage means that the musicians are completely immersed in the action as it takes place. In fact, so intoxicating and hallucinogenic is the look of the whole show, complemented by superb lighting effects, it feels as if you are seeing it through a drug fuelled haze – exactly as it should be.
Hair the Musical is quirky yet entertaining, dated and slightly insane and not everyone’s cup of tea my any means, but the commitment and talent of this strong, talented company ensures it is a wonderfully uninhibited, unmissable and unforgettable experience.
Runs until Saturday. Call 01902 429212 or visit www.grandtheatre.co.uk for tickets.