....Musicals. I really do love musicals. It obviously lies in my love for music itself - both melody and instrumentally, but also the power it can have. Over me, over an audience, to smile, cry, laugh, to stand hair on end. There, we're back to Hair. That is the musical that Kelly and I went to see last night - the controversial production first performed off-Broadway in 1967 and reaching Broadway a year later. The musical had been met with both admiration and protestation against the hippie, free-love, drug induced, naked frolicking that was portrayed on stage. But more now than ever, Hair is revered for it's risky nature, it's incredible songs and groundbreaking play writing. It also still seems current - perhaps as daring now, in a world where drugs, nudism, race, the military all remain taboo subjects, as they did over 30 years ago.
(Original Broadway poster)
Hair tells the story of a politically active, long-haired hippie 'tribe', living a bohemian life in New York City and fighting against conscription into the Vietnam War. The main character, Claude, must decide if he should enlist, to the approval of his '1947 generation' parents, or resist like his fellow tribe.
It is a powerful story and one in which this contemporary cast, (the entire Broadway cast brought to London), perform incredibly well. At once they engage with the audience - Berger, down in the front row of the stalls with his crotch in an audience member's face, whilst Hud literally crawls over the stalls, from front to back. We're there. We're in the moment.
I know musical theatre has a reputation for being camp, well, because it just is, isn't it?! But this production had less of that. The acting, to portray the drug induced fun they were all having was superb and I am continually amazed at the vocal ability that I see and hear in the West End. Dione prancing about with a Tina Turner-esque strut and better pipes than Beyonce, whilst Sheila was every bit the contemporary pop star.
And the message? Well, it's all positive. Sure, there is swearing and nudity, but the musical is out to promote being true to yourself, to being anti-war, to loving music and maintaining friendships in adversity. And as though to drill those points home, the finale is a thrilling, all engaging example of that. As the cast come on for the encore, the audience are invited on stage to dance and celebrate. And boy, do the audience oblige - there they are, there we are, together as one, smiling, dancing and with not a care in the world.
As the cast and audience took their bow up on stage, the front line, (as it were), spoke volumes for the multi-racial and religious diversity that Hair stands for. An old white Grandpa, a young Asian lady, an American mother hugging a young black Brit with over riding joy. And so it went on. It was hard not to get swept away with it all.
Let the sun shine indeed. Brilliant.