Hair – Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester.
Hair today, but certainly not gone tomorrow!! If I were going to go anywhere on International #lovetheatreday, then it would be to see a Musical, and not just any Musical either. It would have to be a biggie; one that will stay with me long after curtain, and one that gives me a little more than just a good night out. How lucky I was then to find that this was exactly the case by visiting the ever-wonderful Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester to see the second in-house full scale Musical this year,Hair.
There can be few Musical fans out there who do not know the story of Hair; but in brief, the year is 1968, and the flower-power hippy lifestyle is at its peak. It is also a time when young men were being drafting to fight in the Vietnam War, and this is the story of one such young man who goes from pot-smoking free love advocate to
Vietnam war hero, and all before his 22nd birthday. It's a Musical that advocates unashamedly the “Peace and Love” stance on life. A line from the Musical asks why the white people ( US government) are demanding that the black people go to fight a war against the yellow people to protect a country that the white people stole from the red people.
You might also wonder why produce such a “dated” show, but given the current political situation in the US, this retro-Musical still has huge significance in our own time too. Hair for Hope Mill Theatre has been revamped a little and the production is not only relevant but vibrant, alive and vital.
Sadly there was a break-in at the theatre and the thieves made away with technical equipment that was being used in the show, and the show was delayed half an hour in starting since the cast and crew needed to re-plot as best they could. I have no idea what the show should have looked like, but it was, in this “lesser” form, neverthelessabsolutely stunning, and I would never have known anything were amiss if we hadn`thave been advised. It is true to say that some of the sound levels were not quite right, and the band did at times overpower the singer/s , and it is also true to say that a fewof the lighting cues were not exactly “39;spot on”(excuse the pun!), but if these were down to the burglars then all is most definitely forgiven!
The cast were all outstanding. Credit here to the casting director, Benjamin Newsome for finding a young and talented cast that truly embodied the spirit of this piece. The show was almost stolen by Shekinah McFarlane as Dionne; and after seeing her rather dour and put-upon role in Parade earlier this year, this role gave her the opportunity to show Manchester just exactly how talented an all-rounder she really is. The protagonist role of Berger was played with unerring sincerity, and a lot more character than Paul Nicholas`s insipid original portrayal, by Ryan Anderson. Other roles to impress (or should that read – impress just that little more than the others since they all were extremely impressive ) were Liam Ross-Mills-Woof, Robert Metsons Claude, and Laura Johnson`s Sheila.
I could keep on writing superlatives all day, but Ill stop. I shall credit the incredible work of director, Jonathan OBoyle; Musical Director, Gareth Bretherton; and choreographer, William Whelton. Boy, what a trio of a team they made together! That is a winning combination right there!
I need write no more. The lengthy applause, the standing ovation, the encore and the cast and audience dancing together onstage says more than a thousand words. Let the sunshine in, for what a piece of work is this!