Hair The Musical @ Edinburgh Playhouse

This 50th anniversary revival of Hair suffers from a lack of direction and structure

Live Review by Sarah Colston | 26 Jun 2019
  • Hair The Musical @ Edinburgh Playhouse

When the original production of Hair opened in New York in October 1967, it was billed as a “tribal love-rock musical’ and was highly praised by audiences for its entertainment value. At the time, it was said that no show could have better expressed the new theatrical era of freedom and youthful rebellion, with its make-love-not-war message, rock anthems and naked hippies. 

This 50th anniversary production (directed by Max Reynolds and produced by Michael Butler) follows a tribe from the 1960’s hippie movement in America who celebrate life, freedom and equality, although there is no clear storyline to speak of. Narrative is distributed randomly amongst the characters who refer to drugs, their current crushes, hallucinations and psychedelic experiences, and their hope of creating a better lifestyle. In one scene, the group demonstrate against the Vietnam War holding banners with slogans such as ‘End war before it ends you’: but the show makes little effort to give context to these famous events and protests which defined the era.

The show’s book and lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, and music by Galt Macdermot, are strung together with songs including Aquarius, I Got Life and Good Morning Starshine. An energetic cast includes hippies Jeanie (Alison Arnopp), Helena (Laura Sillett), Shiela (Daisy Wood-Davis) and Berger (Jake Quickenden), whose dance and vocal talents stand out with the aid of impressive choreography by William Whelton. However, the show’s weak and insignificant plot means the characters lack purpose. The show ends with the songs Let The Sun Shine In and Hippie Life where audience members are invited on stage in a final attempt to engage viewers.

Good vibes are created by the set and costume designer, Maeve Black, who adds some depth and colour to the production with interesting costumes reminiscent of the flower power era. The musicians are also featured on the stage throughout the show in various brightly lit tents, which add to the striking stage design and lighting design by Ben M Rogers.

Hair The Musical is an easy-going production that, despite a talented young cast, is let down by a story that fails to provide significance for today's audience. Try elsewhere if you wish to relive the summer of love.

Run ended; UK tour continues, including King's Theatre, Glasgow, 7-10 Aug