*Tickets were gifted with no obligation to review.
It’s rare I say this, being the Musical addict that I am, but I only knew two things about this musical before going in. That it premiered to rave reviews at Hope Mill Theatre in 2016 before securing a UK tour and that I’d heard the song “Aquarius”. That’s about it.
For others with no clue, the narrative is extremely scarce. You meet a group of hippies in the 60’s who try to encourage one of its members to burn his draft card and avoid going to the Vietnam war.
A vibrant feast for the eyes
Thousands of rainbow streamers decorate the stage and auditorium, with a psychedelic tie-dye cloth hanging over the curtains. The tribe run on stage wearing loose fitting clothing that screams, “I’m on my gap year” and “I only dress in thrift shops”, matched with bare feet and long hair. All putting a firm stamp on the 60s. It is immediately of its time and looks absolutely fantastic.
Aiesha Pease, who I could listen to all day, kicks off the show with a commanding performance of “Aquarius” before Jake Quickenden bounces into action and off the stage into the audience as Berger. The leader of the tribe. He’s flamboyent, glowing and down right bizarre as he introduces himself and sets the tone perfectly. After stripping off revealing an itsy bitsy thong, I kind of knew what to expect from there on.
I was getting all the feels
What follows is an audio assault of well over 40 different rock-pop songs. Yes, that isn’t a typo. I can’t say I was singing them home or had them on repeat, but I did enjoy listening to them all. Some of them sounded like they were on speed at the pace of the lyrics, and I didn’t catch every word or understand every political reference, but I didn’t care. I just sat back and let it take me away. I especially loved the live tribe band on stage.
It’s difficult to call out every cast member as this is the most ensemble show I’ve ever seen. The cast barely leave stage and it really feels like a community up there. All I can say is each and every one of them blew me away. Their vocals were out of this world and they truly embodied the vibe of the decade.
A snapshot of the era
I do think one of the things I really struggled with was the lack of a story. I’m a lover of structure and my brain is wired in a very organised way. This Musical defies the traditional storytelling method in a series of motifs and hallucinations that when sporadically woven together craft a snapshot of the era.
Along the way it nods to of all sorts of issues from homophobia to drug addiction, many of which still resonate today. But ultimately it reflects the free loving, peace and happiness movement that was a sharp contrast to the horrifying war.
I don’t think I’ll be joining the tribe but I did thoroughly enjoy the zaney trip it took me on. It’s a “did it really happen” type experience that I won’t forget for a long time.
Hair the Musical is an eccentric innovation.
You will be entertained. You might feel like you’re high. But everyone can get on board with the loving message and happiness injection.
Hair the Musical is at Manchester Palace Theatre until 13 April and then embarks on a UK tour. Buy tickets today.
Photo credit: Johan Persson