Touring – reviewed at the Palace Theatre, Manchester
True story, I’m no real big fan of Hair. I’ve seen it a couple of times now and it just doesn’t grab me in the way that so many other classic musicals do. But when looking for a Wednesday matinee to complete my trip to Manchester, it was the only show in town. And given that this Aria Entertainment, Senbla and Hope Mill Theatre production was born here in Manchester, it seemed only right to give it another shot.
And I have to say, in its 50th anniversary year, it is beginning to win me over. The music (by Galt MacDermot) may not occupy a special place in my soul and the book (by Gerome Ragni and James Rado) remains chronically weak but there’s something so persuasive about Jonathan O’Boyle’s production that is entirely seductive, and feels even more so in the grander theatres in which it is now touring, as opposed to the more intimate spaces it has previously occupied.
Much of this is down to the charisma and talent of a very strong company. It is impossible to listen to the likes of Aiesha Pease’s Dionne and Natalie Green’s Cassie without being agog at their vocal prowess, or to resist Marcus Collins and Tom Bales flirting outrageously with the crowd whether from on the stage or from their actual laps in one case. And with the one storyline that resonates, Paul Wilkins is an impressive figure as the tortured Claude.
Maeve Black’s design swells effectively to fill the space, Gareth Bretherton’s musical direction of his top onstage band equally finds no problem in rocking out a larger venue, and William Whelton’s choreography breathes a little better now. And those big company numbers really are a treat: ‘I Got Life’, ‘Where Do I Go’, the extraordinary cri de coeur of ‘Let The Sunshine In’… it’s enough to make a boy consider changing his mind!