“…a beautiful piece of theatre, championing love, peace, and patriotism for the world”
West End Theatre Guide
Hair is a musical created by Jim Rado and Gerome Ragni who met in 1964 when they were both cast in an off-Broadway production of Hang Down Your Head and Die. They began writing Hair later on that year and, in 1967, Hair opened on off-Broadway. The musical was revised for a Broadway transfer and it opened three months later in late April 1968. During Hair’s transition period from off-Broadway to on-Broadway, civil rights figurehead Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated, giving Hair’s message of equality and fighting for human rights even more poignancy.
Hair is widely regarded as a game-changer in the world of theatre, being seen as a show which pushed so many boundaries. The anti-war stigma, acts of flag desecration, drug use and nudity on stage were controversial in 1960s USA, and the West End production’s opening was delayed until theatre censorship was abolished in the UK in September 1968.
Hair is a timeless piece in that its references to equal rights for women, racial and ethnic minorities, and gay and lesbian communities still resonate in today’s society and are still being fought for. The spectre of the Vietnam War in the show and fears over nuclear weapons and nuclear war are also starkly relevant now.
Whilst this musical is about the youth of the 1960s, the themes echo through all subsequent young generations, who feel they are regarded as lacking in responsibility and want older generations to hear their voice. Indeed, the show directly invites parents to go home and “…make a speech to their teenagers and say: Kids, be free, no guilt, be whoever you are, do whatever you want.” There were some modern-day references to Trump and Obama added into this production, but as they were only passing comments that didn’t then really go anywhere, it felt unnecessary and didn’t really fit with the 1960s hippie vibe. There is, however, in this production a strong relevance to today’s society for all people, of all ages, as people become increasingly disillusioned with politics and the Establishment, and it’s all too easy to relate to Hair’s story and to see elements of it being re-played in real-life time and again.
This 50th anniversary production brings together a fantastic cast to perform Galt MacDermot’s diverse genre score (with lyrics by Ragni and Rado), including ‘Aquarius’, ‘I Got Life’, ‘Let The Sun Shine In’ and ’Hippie Life’. There were standout performances from Andy Coxon (Yank!, The Last Five Years, Beautiful) as Berger, Robert Metson (The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Bear, I’ll Be Seeing You) as Claude, and Shekinah McFarlane (Tommy, Parade, The Lion King) as Dionne.
Hair is a beautiful piece of theatre, championing love, peace and patriotism for the world, not just for one country. It is a timeless theatre classic which will never lose its relevance, and whilst some of the messages are serious, the cast leave their audience uplifted with a really fun end of show party.