HAIR: The American Tribal Love Rock Musical

Date 23rd February 2018
Society Brighton Theatre Group
Venue The Old Market, Hove.
Director Michael Burnie
Musical Director Carl Greenwood
Producer Keith Shepherd

Report

Author: Dee Sharpe

This revolutionary 60’s musical by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, opened in London shortly after the abolition of theatre censorship. Scenes that included nudity, simulated sex, drug taking and blasphemy, shocked some audience members and delighted others with their outrageous audacity.

Set in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1967, ‘Hair’ tells the story of a group of flower power peace protestors called The Tribe, who celebrate free love and peace and burn draft cards in protest at conscription into the Vietnam War; a war which was chewing up and spewing out the lives of thousands of young men. The plotline is as loose as hippy hair and focuses on Claude, a young good natured boy who is about to be drafted, and his friend Berger the magnetic, wild, free spirit,  with Berger’s girlfriend Sheila, other ‘Tribe’ members and Claude’s straight laced parents.

The show has been performed in almost every country around the world and celebrates its fiftieth birthday this year, as does Brighton Theatre Company. How great to blend these two fifty year anniversaries!

Front of house was a colourful world of love and peace, offering hugs (accepted, thank you very much!) as cast mingled near the entrance and through the aisles, greeting the audience and dancing amidst the coloured lights and flower power symbols. This set the tone for a cornucopia of colour and contrasts with a fluid-like movement of continuous action punctuated by numbers from Galt MacDermot’s celebrated score.

The cast was fabulous. Andrew Carn totally believable in his role as ‘Tribe’ leader Berger and Josh Hanson as the idealistic and vulnerable Claude. Lucia Romero Clark as Sheila – what a voice. There are too many others to list, but it was a cast that was continually moving, performing and rolling from one outstanding song to another, the vitality of each individual combining to create a group energy that positively crackled out to draw the audience into their electric vibe. The combination of the fabulous 6 piece orchestra and the stunning ensemble harmonies created perfection in musical numbers such as ‘Aquarius’, ‘Good Morning Starshine’, ‘Air’ and ‘Let the Sunshine In’;  the effect enhanced by an orgy of light and colour. 

When this colourful cast continued their joyousness while film footage of war and destruction played as a backdrop the contrast was stark, powerful and effective as was the shock factor when Claude appeared with shorn hair, his slight fragile form encased in a military uniform.

The performance area was not huge for such a large cast, yet excellent choreography achieved a free, spontaneous atmosphere throughout. Clever and varied use of a box on wheels, a giant parachute and the psychedelic kaleidoscope of moving images interspersed with hippy graffiti added to the layered multidimensional effect.  The surreal scene when Claude is hallucinating was powerfully executed with the slow-mo performance, filmed helicopter and the entrance and exits of nuns, monks, the Klu Klux Klan, Soldiers and Native Americans.

The nudity at end of first scene was surprisingly tasteful with lights down and a very short glimpse so that it was unclear whether the cast were nude or in flesh coloured costumes.

At the curtain call, the audience was invited on stage to dance and sing alongside the cast and they did so with alacrity immersing themselves into the feel-good vibe and demonstrating their delight and appreciation for this dazzling performance.