“each song and dance number is filled with unfathomable skill”
Sex, drugs, sex, psychedelic tabs, more sex and a rather peculiar UV Scene. Hair bounces into Brighton as part of its 50th anniversary tour.
Picture this, itʼs 1967 and a group of hippie youngsters are longing to change the world in which they find themselves. They question every aspect of authority and unite through protest and song, under the gloomy shadow of the Vietnam War.
The story of Hair jumps so sporadically from one character and story to another which confuses, leaving us little to no time to really form an emotional connection with each character and the threadbare storyline.
The cast is laden with TV celebrities. X-Factor Duo Jake Quickenden (modelling a rather revealing thong throughout) and Marcus Collins (as Hud) are both interesting talents. Both do well throughout but are underserved by the script and direction from Jonathan O’Boyle. Quickendenʼs energetic conversations with the audience are infectious and makes his Berger completely loveable; someone youʼd take home to your mum.
Vocally, Aiesha Pease, playing Dionne, and Daisy Wood-Davis, as Shelia, are simply stunning, both commanding the stage with pitch-perfect clarity. However beautiful harmonies and exceptional examples of physical theatre canʼt forgive the poor diction from most of the cast throughout the sub-par plot.
I have one big gripe about this production as a whole and thatʼs how it fairs in the current political climate. Although Hair tries all the tricks to appeal to our packed to the rafters Brighton audience but the lack of ‘shockingʼ content merely makes it a well-produced museum piece. With the director’s choice of implementing Trump speeches at the beginning, the show manages to say nothing new whilst remaining some-what relevant but this is cheap and easy. If you had put Erdogan or Putin speeches in place of Trump, or performed the show in Russia or Brunei for example, where homosexuality and nudity on stage is still illegal, then the impact would be colossal.
Putting the incoherent story aside, Hair, put simply, is a spectacle and an event. Once intended to shock and change laws, Hair unintentionally falls flat in its flamboyant charm. Although each song and dance number is filled with unfathomable skill, energy and wit the seemingly endless number of songs forces us to yearn for more of the thin narrative.
Reviewed by Nathan Collins
Photography by Johan Persson
Theatre Royal Brighton until 13th July then UK tour continues
“a heartfelt tribute, created and delivered, by a team who believe in the power of music to enrich our lives”
With the ninetieth Academy Awards fast approaching, Aria Entertainment is laying on a well-timed celebration of the annual event through song, dance and stories. Charting the ‘Best Song Award’, it is the story of the Golden Age of Hollywood, part celebration and part eulogy: a kind of memento mori to a lost world.
There is so much to cover in one evening that it seems to be an impossible task to undertake, but writer Chris Burgess has a keen sense of balancing the informative with the entertaining. This is not just a shuffle through the pages of the American Songbook, it is also a rapid-fire chronicle (albeit sometimes perfunctory) of America’s social history in the mid twentieth century, and how Hollywood has always mirrored society, rather than vice versa. But let’s not get too bookish; “A Night at the Oscars” is billed as a musical revue, and it is foremost a glorious reminder of the sheer wealth of the songs, composers and craftsmanship that existed in that bygone era.
The four singers have total control over the material. Kieran Brown, Steven Dalziel, Natalie Green and Laura Sillett all effortlessly span the octaves and emotions needed to tackle the likes of Gershwin, Berlin, Porter, Kern, Bernstein (to name just a few) at their best. They each shine individually, but when they are in unison the harmonies are spot on. Accompanied by Musical Director Ben Fergusson on piano, Will Henderson on double bass and Ben Burton on percussion, the combined effect is dynamic and passionate.
There are many highlights, most notably “The Man That Got Away” that closes the first act, and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” which heartbreakingly reminds us of Gershwin’s untimely, early death. Other moments of high emotion, such as the tribute to Charlie Chaplin, are offset by moments of high comedy injected into the well-documented Bette Davis and Joan Crawford feud.
The second act is slightly more fragmentary and we feel that the cast are in a bit of a hurry to reach the end. But in fairness this reflects the changing face of Hollywood. As Hollywood battles with the changing politics and fashions it also has to compete with the legislation that strips if of its monopoly and power. And of course with the birth of television. It is a whole new world, and historically the music suffers too. It is perfectly fitting that the evening’s show ends at 1973. The poignancy of “The Way We Were” rings through the auditorium: an anthem to the sad fact that the traditional ‘Oscars’ song is no more. What happens next is another show entirely.
But for now “A Night at the Oscars” should be enjoyed for what it is. Fittingly it ends on a rousing chorus of “That’s Entertainment”. Entertainment it unquestionably is. It is also a heartfelt tribute, created and delivered, by a team who believe in the power of music to enrich our lives.