The Theatreguide.London Review
is colourful, tuneful, bright, perky and infectiously enjoyable. If it
also has a slight air of ersatz museum-piece Disneyfied Early Americana
about it, well that’s part of its charm as well.
had to be
there, but there actually was a brief moment in history when it was
possible to entertain the hope that a generation of hairy kids who
believed in peace and love and were against all the things it was right
to be against might actually be on to something, and to enjoy this
musical as a celebration of the brave new world they heralded.
know now that
most of them grew up to work on Wall Street in the 1980s, but it was a
nice fantasy while it lasted, and it is more than mere nostalgia that
makes a revisit to that fantasy welcome.
(Oh, and incidentally, you don’t have to remember the sixties to enjoy Hair. My companion was a sixteen-year-old, and she had a ball.)
archetypal Sixties director Tom O’Horgan moved the musical from
Off-Broadway to Broadway and London, he threw out most of Gerome Ragni
and James Rado’s book, creating one of the first song-cycle musicals.
virtually nonexistent - a bunch of hippies hang out, and one of them
gets drafted - and there are more than forty songs in all (lyrics by
Ragni and Rado, music by Galt MacDermot), many of them barely a minute
long and most of them not particularly good.
the ones that
are good - Aquarius, Hair, Good Morning Starshine, Let The Sun Shine
etc. - are very good, and have taken on some of the patina of joyful
innocence shared by the early Beatles songs.
Rado has tinkered with the book, putting back some of the original
spoken dialogue and, I think, rearranging some things.
memory of the
1968 version is fuzzy (‘If you can remember the sixties, you weren’t
there.’ - Paul Kantner), but I think Claude’s bad trip has been
extended and elaborated on, and I remember Good Morning Starshine
coming earlier in the show (It works quite nicely where it is now).
I must credit director Diane Paulus for an unexpected and very
effective re-imagining of Let The Sun Shine In.
action out into the house whenever possible (an element my young friend
particularly enjoyed) so that those on the aisles and in the front rows
may find themselves being played to on a one-to-one basis.
Karole Armitage skilfully creates the illusion of there being no
choreography at all, but just people dancing as the spirit moves them,
though the fact that they never crash into each other, and frequently
form unexpected - and all the more lovely for that - patterns gives
away the artistry behind the seeming randomness.
of the gang and compere of the evening, Will Swenson is less magnetic
and charming than you could wish (and he thinks), though Gavin Creel is
attractive and sympathetic as the draft-threatened Claude.
rest of the
cast generally take turns stepping forward for one song before
disappearing back into the chorus, with Sasha Allen (Aquarius) and
Caissie Levy (Easy To Be Hard) registering most strongly.
Review - Hair - Gielgud 2010