Last night I was invited to see Hair at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham. After winning the 2018 WhatsOnStage award and direct from a sell-out London run, the 50th Anniversary tour stars Dancing On Ice 2018 Winner Jake Quickenden as ‘Berger,’ Daisy Wood-Davis (Hollyoaks / Dreamboats and Petticoats) as ‘Shelia’ and Marcus Collins (X-Factor Finalist / Kinky Boots) as ‘Hud.’
Set in 1967, Hair tells the story of a group of politically active and sexually liberated hippies – the ‘tribe’ – living a bohemian life in New York City. Claude, Berger, their roommate Sheila and their friends struggle to balance their lives against society and their conservative parents in ‘the Age of Aquarius,’ united in song as they rebel against the American flag and conscription of one of their own – Claude – into the Vietnam War.
Originally breaking new musical theatre boundaries with its radical depictions of sexuality (with the now famous nude scene at the end of Act I) and use of a racially integrated cast, Hair is often credited as being the first to define the ‘rock musical’ genre. With a celebrated and well-known score and featuring hits such as ‘Aquarius,’ ‘Let the Sun Shine In’ and ‘Good Morning Starshine,’ the show promised to burst in full ‘psychedelic glory’ as it celebrates life, freedom and equality.
Fifty years after its first West End performance (which, incidentally, starred Paul Nicolas), and with this being my first chance to experience a full performance of the musical, I was concerned that it could be perceived as rather dated. What I discovered, however, was that the social commentary and themes throughout the musical was very much still as relevant as it was fifty years ago. Indeed, some of the initial introduction scene has been updated to reflect modern-day American politics with reference to Trump and Obama.
While the plot is basic and at times a little confusing for a first watch, the show was an incredible event with some of the best vocals that I’ve heard in a while. With a mixture of a whole host of genres, including rock, country and gospel, each cast member possessed a powerhouse of talent and when combined the result was completely electrifying – the group songs were particularly strong and the a capella harmony sections were impressive and completely on point. The set was filled with psychedelic colour, adorned with bright ribbons covering a chainlink fence with equally colourful tree stumps on both sides of the stage, and an excellent use of lighting created a whole range of different atmospheres to suit every scene expertly. The band was placed around the stage, dressed in the same clothing as the cast, and the musicians were equally as talented – The Bloke was enormously impressed but the guitar solo at the end.
Jake Quickenden set a rather cheeky tone at the beginning, introducing himself as ‘Banana’ Berger, removing his trousers and throwing them into the audience with “Mom? Is that you?” with comedic timing that immediately made the audience sit up and take notice.
Paul Wilkins excelled as Claude – he is engaging and charismatic and commands the stage with an incredible presence (and wonderful voice).
Marcus Collins was brilliant is the role of Hud- I already knew of his vocal talents after seeing his performances on the X-Factor and his subsequent album, but he really is sensational on a live stage.
Other highlights include Aiesha Pease as Dionne (what. a. voice), Alison Arnopp as Jeanie, Daisy Wood-Davis as Sheila – her voice has a rather sweet but incredibly powerful sound, Bradley Judge as the hilarious Woof and the amazing high notes from Natalie Green as Cassie.
Absolutely worth a watch and a fantastic evening!
Hair is available to watch from Monday 29th April – Saturday 4th May at the Alexandra Theatre. To find out more, or to book tickets, visit here: