Hair the Musical, at Gielgud Theatre, London, from April 2010
WITH a plethora of press reviews available online, and plenty of blogs by writers far more knowledgeable about this subject than me, I rather feel that the new, and much feted, West End production of Hair the Musical, featuring the Broadway cast shipped wholesale from New York, has been rather done to death.
However, having been among the first audiences to see it, I feel I have just about enough opinion on the matter to put my thoughts to screen (like putting thoughts to paper, but more modern).
Firstly, I have to give a big up (as it were) to Darius Nichols, who plays Hud. His magnificent Afro may be a wig, but he ain’t faking in the downstairs department, and no mistakin’. No wonder the majority of the cast have no problem taking part in the mass, voluntary, nuddy-in at the end of the first half. They know that few in the audience will be looking any further than Darius, a truly fine figure of a man. I forgot even to check that the female cast members were adhering to the hippy ethos down below. Don’t think they had Brazilians in those days.
Second point (and one which will hopefully prove that I do occasionally have more erudite thoughts than the one above) is regarding the Daily Mail’s rather jaded review, which dismisses Hair as a hedonistic celebration of hippiedom which ignores the “truth” (Daily Mail? Truth? Surely it would rather print another photo of The Saturdays than the “truth” about anything) that it was the rich kids who avoided the Vietnam draft while working class boys were shipped off to their deaths in their thousands.
But for those audience members not being blinded by a crotch in their face like the Daily Mail’s reviewer (or possibly miffed that it wasn’t the best crotch on offer), there are plenty of allusions in the show to some of the Tribe’s trustafarian status - conversations regarding the Bank of Mum and Dad, and the fact that political campaigner Sheila can afford to yomp off to Washington DC to join in the anti-war protests on the White House lawn, while other Tribe members cannot. Meanwhile, central character Claude, eventually bows to pressure from his proud Polish-born parents and accepts the draft, and his doom.
Also alluded to throughout is the relative immaturity of many of the characters. Berger impetuously drops out of school in spectacular style; throws a hissy fit over an unwanted gift, and failing to cope with the intense affections of Sheila, attempts to foist her on his friend. Pregnant Jeanie pointlessly wishes that Claude was the father of her child, rather than “some crazy” - and long departed - “speed freak”. Meanwhile, sweet Crissy combs the streets for Frank Mills, the mislaid man of her dreams, and Sheila appears genuinely convinced that she can save Claude from the draft through the now long-lost art of the "yip-out".
Also addressed are the limitations of free love - when Crissy, eventually giving up on the mysterious Frank, plumps instead for a night of comfort in the arms of Walter (and who blames her) she is too late - he’s got a new girlfriend, who doesn’t relish the idea of sharing her man.
So yes, Hair the Musical is a celebration of hedonism. But it doesn’t ignore the inevitable sadness that eventually arises from such a lifestyle. Such joy can only ever be fleeting, and sometimes the beauty is in the futility.
- If you’d like to read some slightly more sensible thoughts* on Hair the Musical, please mosey along to the excellent blog, Grachman, he say... at http://grach-man.blogspot.com/
* Sensible thoughts not guaranteed.