Latest Review – Hair [Palace Theatre, Manchester] [UK Tour]

Photo by Johan Persson


Palace Theatre, Manchester

Until Saturday 13th April 2019

Hope Mill Theatre’s dazzling 50th anniversary production of the psychedelic and intoxicating classic Hair has come an awful long way since it first premiered at the intimate Manchester venue back in November 2016, with its success sparking a sell-out transfer to The Vaults, London, an official London Cast Recording, and now a major nationwide tour.

Co-produced by Katy Lipson’s Aria Entertainment and Senbla, Jonathan O’Boyle’s fluid, vibrant production may have now shifted from immersive thrust-stage studio spaces to full scale proscenium arch theatres, however in doing so it has lost none of its intoxicating power. Set against Maeve Black’s bold, stage-filling designs, this is a show that has simply evolved into something much bigger, and it remains a joyous, hallucinatory revival bursting with energy, colour and sheer vocal power.

Featuring a book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni, and an anthemic, alternative rock score by Galt MacDermot, the ground-breaking musical follows the exploits of a young, politically active, and sexually liberated hippie ‘tribe’ in the East Village of New York during 1967’s ‘Summer of Love’, as they protest for peace and love under the shadow of the Vietnam War.

The show may seem far from controversial to a contemporary audience, and it has of course lost much of its power to shock over the years, however the use of Donald Trump quotes as the cast first enter the stage (through the audience) reminds us that the musical’s timely central themes are still hugely relevant in today’s world.

With a largely erratic book, and a lack of any real narrative structure, Hair is a piece that rests almost entirely on the strength of its ensemble cast to carry things off, and for this 50th anniversary tour, the producers have brought together a dynamic, multi-talented company that certainly don’t disappoint.

Aiesha Pease, Marcus Collins, and Paul Wilkins are particular standouts in a very strong cast, however the show is undoubtedly at its most thrilling (and most effective) during the big, full-company numbers, and the likes of Aquarius, Where Do I Go?, and Let the Sunshine In are often electrifying.

Musical Director Gareth Bretherton and his on-stage band have been with the production since its inception, and deliver a superb performance of the famous score.

There are a few issues, however most tend to lie with the show itself and its often problematic book and lyrics rather than this staging, with O’Boyle’s evocative, revised production – one that the audience are most definitely a part of – proving a joyous and celebratory must see!

Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes (approx.), including one 20-minute interval.

Final Performance at the Palace Theatre, Manchester: Saturday 13th April 2019.

For more information, and to book tickets, please Click Here.

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