50 years ago, on October 17th 1967, HAIR The Musical opened off-Broadway and became an instant classic. The ground breaking show, by many called the world’s first rock musical, is now back with an anniversary production at The Vaults in London, that has a twist in its tail and it is obvious that Hair is as relevant today as it was then.
HAIR is set amongst a hippie community, ‘The Tribe’, in New York’s East Village, just after the Summer of Love, living a life that is free and wild, drug-fuelled, sexually liberated and full of love & peace, whilst protesting and marching against the Vietnam War. It features classic songs like Aquarius, Let the Sun Shine In and Good Morning Star Shine that all became hits in their own right.
For this new production at The Vaults, director Jonathan O’Boyle has worked with one of the original writers, James Rado, to bring the musical up to date with references to the current political situation in America, whilst at the same time taking it back to the original script.
James Rado says: “The show you will see at The Vaults is the (original) yellow & gold script evolved. A work of heart that was labored over delicately with huge inspiration from 1989 to 2017. (Jerry had begun the transformation with me.) The show you see here at The Vaults in London in 2017 is the world premiere of the evolved HAIR which I hope will take you deeper. That is the goal. It is some kind of miracle that Jonathan O’Boyle showed up at the finishing touches.”
Staging the play in such an intimate space is genius. You are right there (especially if you have a seat in the red zone), with the Tribe, experiencing it in all its dirty, sweaty, sexy, joyful, sad, desperate, intense glory. You inhale the incense being burnt, feel the heat of the fire being lit and you look into the tribe member’s faces and see every emotion played out right in front of you without any filters.
The whole cast is fantastic, and I feel guilty to single any one of the actors out, but I do have to mention Andy Coxon, who is a mesmerizing Berger, leader of The Tribe, full of mischief an glee, clearly enjoying playing this iconic role. Robert Metson is great as the happy-go-lucky Claude who has to make a choice that will change his and his friends’ lives forever. Also, Laura Johnson (Sheila), Natalie Green (Cassie), Shekinah McFarlane (Dionne), Jessie May (Jeanie) and Liam Ross-Mills (Woof) whose solo numbers were exceptional. And a special nod to Patrick George, who brought the house down as Margaret Meade. And let’s not forget Gareth Bretherton, the Musical Director, and his brilliant band, who gave a tight performance in every genre they played in, from psychedelic rock to soul, R&B and even gospel and country.
It is hardly believable that Hair is 50 years old, especially today, when many of its themes have come back into focus. We are finding us, once again, on the brink of war and could soon be sending our young people to fight in a faraway land for reasons that make no sense. The far right have reared their ugly head, people are discriminated against because of race or gender, hard fought for rights are being eroded or even abolished by the powers that be, freedom of speech is under threat; and all the good work that has been done in eradicating all of these things in the past is being dismantled bit by bit.
Jonathan O’Boyle, the show’s 32 year old director says: “The values and anxieties of the characters you see here in Hair today still resonate 50 years after the original production of Hair opened off-Broadway in 1967. Women’s Equality, LGBTQ Rights, Ethnic Diversity, Black Lives Matter, Environmental Issues and perhaps one of the biggest issues that once again is pressing down on us – the threat of nuclear war. It makes me feel sad that all the issues people were shouting about back in the Summer of Love are still unresolved and remain part of our social conscience”.
“I wish every mother and father in this theatre would go home and make a speech to their teenagers and say: Kids, be free, no guilt, be whoever you are, do whatever you want.”
I loved every minute of the experience at The Vaults, from spending pre-show in the peacenik ‘hippie village’, brimming with flower-power, psychedelic colours and music, sipping 60s inspired drinks from the bar, to seeing the vault decked out in thousands of colourful ribbons in a nod to the South/North Korean border which has millions of prayer ribbons attached to it; until right to the end, when I found myself dancing and singing ‘Let the Sun Shine in’ at the top of my voice with the cast and the rest of the audience.
If I could give this new production of HAIR 6 stars, I would. Believe me.
Peace & Love!
The cast for this 50th Anniversary production of HAIR is: DANIEL BAILEY (Motown The Musical – Shaftesbury Theatre, The Lion King – Lyceum Theatre), Berger – ANDY COXON (Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, Les Misérables – West End, Mitch in Yank! – Charing Cross Theatre), ADAM DAWSON (Jet in West Side Story RSC Live – Stratford), ABIOLA EFUNSHILE (Urdang graduate 2017), Margaret Mead – PATRICK GEORGE (Cats – UK tour), Hud – JAMMY KASONGO (Beautiful The Carole King Musical – Aldwych), Jeanie – JESSIE MAY (Fiona in Blondel – The New Union Theatre, Rock Of Ages – UK tour).
Returning to the production from the acclaimed Manchester run are: Cassie – NATALIE GREEN (Wicked – UK tour), Sheila – LAURA JOHNSON (Rizzo in Grease – UK tour), Dionne – SHEKINAH McFARLANE (Parade – Hope Mill Theatre, The Lion King – UK & International tour), Claude – ROBERT METSON (Ryan in Bear – Southwark Playhouse), Woof – LIAM ROSS-MILLS (Les Misérables – West End, Ben in Ushers: The Front of House Musical – Charing Cross Theatre), Mary – KORYANN STEVENS (West Side Story – Live Nation) and Chrissy – KIRSTEN WRIGHT (Our Seasons End – The AC Group)
Book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni, music by Galt MacDermot. Produced by Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment, Ollie Rosenblatt for Senbla, Joseph Houston and William Whelton for Hope Mill Theatre and Associate Producers Guy James and Joe Brown. Directed by Jonathan O’Boyle (Ass. Director An American In Paris – Dominion, Ass. Director The Scottsboro Boys – Young Vic & West End, The Judas Kiss – Toronto & New York, This House – West End, Bull – Young Vic, Pippin – Hope Mill Theatre); Musical Director – Gareth Bretherton (The Verb, To Love – Old Red Lion, Seasons of Larson – Lyric Theatre); Choreographer – William Whelton (Our House – Union Theatre); Set & Costume Designer – Maeve Black (Adam & Eve…and Steve – Kings Head Theatre); Sound – Max Perryment (Start Swimming – Young Vic; Lighting Designer – Ben M Rogers (Jesus Christ Superstar – Scandinavian Tour) and Casting Director – Ben Newsome.
Performances: TUESDAY to SUNDAY (no performances on a Monday)
11 October – 3 December
Tuesday – Friday: 7.30pm
Saturday: 7.00pm (the performance on Saturday 11/11/17 only is at 6pm)
Thursday, Saturday & Sunday: 3.00pm
Final booking period performances: TUESDAY to SUNDAY (no performances on a Monday)
4 December- 13 January 2018
Tuesday – Saturday: 7.30pm
Thursday, Saturday & Sunday: 3.00pm
NO performance on Christmas Eve Sunday 24/12/17
TICKET PRICES: £25 – £50
Age recommendation: 14+ (this show contains nudity)
BOX OFFICE: 020 7401 9603