Marking the 50th anniversary of what is deemed to be the first-ever rock musical, this latest revival of Hair is a real celebration – returning a show that started off-Broadway to its roots by staging it in an intimate, immersive space where you really feel like you're part of the hippie party. It's a love-in where you can see the sweat, smell the incense and, in the rousing 'Let The Sun Shine In' encore, join the cast for a euphoric dance.
Given these troubled and turbulent times, the message of love, peace and understanding couldn't be more welcome and it's delivered with tremendous spirit by a cast that includes Andy Coxon as freewheeling, trousers-shedding Berger and Robert Metson as charismatic, conformity-defying Claude.
Berger and Claude are the New York hippies the rest of the tribe revolves around and said tribe are as colourful a bunch as the rainbow flag streamers that hang from the Vaults' ceiling, ranging from a pregnant earth mother to a Mick Jagger-obsessed flower child via a man pretending to be a woman and a chorus of real women singing the virtues of caucasians versus African-Americans in the Black Boys/White Boys duet that earmarks Hair as a long-before-its-time salute to diversity.
Other numbers champion free love, recreational drug use, Manchester (which is Claude's spiritual home if not his literal one) and, of course, being hairy. It's an hallucinatory mix, with an actual and extended hallucination thrown into the mix, and the plot (something about Claude being drafted into the Vietnam War) isn't so much hard to keep track of as all but nonexistent.
But devised as a counterculture, in-your-face, sod-convention shaking up of conventional musical theatre, Hair
was - and remains - a show that you experience. This revival is brilliantly directed by Jonathan O'Boyle, brilliantly choreographed by William Whelton, brilliantly lit by Ben M Rogers and brilliantly sung and acted. Shedding their clothes at the end of the first act, the cast may not be as hairy as they claim to be in the title song but they give the show their all. Surrender to its high spirits and let the sun shine in.
Hair is at The Vaults Theatre in London until January 14.
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Words by Simon Button
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