A review by Nicholas Newman
Last night, this famous and partly notorious New York Broadway musical came to Oxford’s New Theatre, as part of 50th anniversary tour of the country. Hair The Musical is famous for several things including the songs ‘Age of Aquarius‘ and ‘Let the Sunshine In’.
It must be noted, that this musical has very little in the way of plot line, it has a few good songs, at times extremely loud music, flashing lights and a brief moment when the performers onstage are in the nude. The bit of nudity is perhaps why the New Theatre engaged security guards by the stage to restrict access by the audience.
However, for many in the audiance, this dated musical felt like an attempt to exploit the nostalgia of the 60s and 70s failed hippie culture revolution. Since many of those Americans, who took part in those cultural events, such as the Woodstock festival, demonstrations against the war in Vietnam and nuclear weapons, are today, the people who elected President Trump to office.
As for the story, it is set in New York’s Central Park where are our group of privileged urban tribes people come to congregate, to sing songs and smoke pot, wearing the latest hippy fashions of the time. The musical opens with son et lumière presentation, linking long deceased President Johnson’s decision to prevent the invasion of South Vietnam by the North Vietnamese, and the latest histrionics by President Trump about intervening in the Middle East.
In addition, there were references to various historic American political icons including Booth and Lincoln, which to an English audience have little or any knowledge about. In any case, their portrayal felt irrelevant to the narrative being portrayed in this musical.
But the production itself was disappointing in general. Talking to others in the audience they felt, the first part was just too long. The best part of this musical, was the second part, since it became a real human interest story the dilemma to serve one’s country in the time of war or follow the beliefs of the hippy counter culture. Although, one of the weaknesses of the story was ignoring the fact, that, those with power and influence made sure that their sons did not actually fight in Vietnam.
As for the show itself, the performances by the actors and actresses were on the whole good. I thought the acting, dancing and singing by X Factor performer Jake Quickenden (Berger), Claude (Paul Wilkins) and Daisy Wood Davis (Sheila), was very impressive.
But, unfortunately the sound production had problems ensuring the clarity of their voices, which was not helped by the excessive volumes of the background music, which made comprehending the lyrics very difficult.
As for the team at Oxford’s New Theatre, they were as usual very friendly and professional in ensuring everyone in the audience got to their seat and had a good time.
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