My sister penny_p
was my theatre companion tonight, and right from the start she was excited as it was her first time getting a seat upgrade: From the Upper Circle to the Dress Circle. We paid about £30 each, and according to the website the entire Dress Circle is meant to cost £66.75 a seat. So not only did we get a bargain, but dare I say it's not exactly a huge surprise that they can't manage to fill all the seats at those prices. I know they imported an entire Broadway cast, but importing Broadway prices as well could backfire.
I've never seen Hair
before but the hippie musical has always been pretty notorious for its nudity (I can't imagine why that piece of information stuck with me from an early age) and I knew and liked its more famous songs: "Aquarius," "Let The Sun Shine In," "Good Morning Starshine," "Hair" and "I Got Life," the latter of which has been used in a TV advert recently¹. Beyond that I didn't know anything about the story, and it turns out it doesn't really have one. Berger (Will Swenson) is the leader of The Tribe, a group of hippies in 1967 New York. A quick succession of songs (the programme lists an astonishing 40 songs in a 2-and-a-half-hour show, but many of these all blur into each other or consist of only a couple of lines) introduces some of the characters, and over the course of the first act Claude (Gavin Creel) emerges as the central figure. He's just received his draft letter to Vietnam and much of the second act involves a bad acid trip he has that builds on his fears and indecision over whether to dodge the draft.
The cast are fantastic and Diane Paulus' production has them constantly leaving the stage to climb over the Stalls and Dress Circle, often clambering over the audience. (Our new seats were at the end of the row and having read Ian's review
I knew the cast were likely to get touchy-feely with whoever was in the aisle seat; Penny decided to risk it and she loved it, although her hair was
in need of a brush by the end.) The cast are the main attraction, the show itself hasn't, to my mind, aged so well. Apart from the aforementioned well-known ones, the other songs aren't memorable, they all blend in together. While the show is fun, it surprisingly isn't often funny, and although at times the production has a tongue-in-cheek feel that acknowledges this is a bit of a period piece, at others it's got a po-faced earnestness that's hard to take seriously. Next to me were a bunch of Dutch girls who were loving the show and were always the first to volunteer to dance with the cast, but even they were sniggering at some of the supposedly serious stuff during the bad trip.
Of course this is Hair
so you already know there's going to be a
so we've got to give it bonus points for that, but annoyingly the gorgeous Gavin Creel was the only one I would have liked to see naked, and he's one of the very few to keep his kit on. At the end the cast reverse the trend of the evening by asking the audience to join them and dance on stage; Penny had enjoyed the show so much that she did (although it turns out her bravery was only enough to get her to stand in the wings, which explains why I couldn't see her however much I looked.) Meanwhile Creel at that point had come up to the Dress Circle, was standing on the row in front of mine and shaking his arse in the direction of my row so I stayed put. So it's fun, it's very well performed, but as a piece of theatre the lack of narrative or character consistency definitely finds it lacking.Hair
by Gerome Ragni, James Rado and Galt McDermot is booking until the 8th of January at the Gielgud Theatre (which seems to be the West End theatre of choice for shows featuring cock'n'minge, just saying - The Graduate
and now this, all got their bits out here.)
¹I want to say it's being used to advertise one of those yoghurts that makes you shit, but I may be getting confused because all
TV adverts at the moment seem to be for yoghurt that makes you shit.