This revival of the classic 1960s musical absolutely lets the sunshine in.
Paulini at Hair media call, His Majesty's Theatre, Perth, 23 August 2019. Image: Alison Rodrigues.
Hair, the ‘original tribal rock musical’, was written by two young out-of-work actors, James Rado and Gerome Ragini, captivated by the shift in thinking which came with the 1960s in America and the UK. It was about a desire to break free from the restrictions of a conservative society that wasn’t paying enough attention to the environment and the war in Vietnam which was calling young people to go and fight for their country.
After premiering off-Broadway in 1967, the musical was first performed in Australia in 1969 when entrepreneur Harry M. Miller staged the show in Sydney but it wasn’t until 1972 that it came to His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth. Many actors who are well known today clamoured to be part of that original tour, including Marcia Hines, then just 16 and living in the United States when she auditioned – Miller had to become her guardian so she could enter the country. It’s great to see this revival open at His Majesty’s Theatre, where the memory of the 1972 performance is still alive and well. Perth is so often left at the end of a touring line from the eastern states.
This remake shows why this classic musical made such an impression on people’s thinking. If you’ve been feeling a bit high on stress and low on smiles, do go and see it. The second act could do with some fine tuning but the enthusiasm and spirit still bursts out all over. The choreography, making excellent use of a set of rails and stairs, brings the impact needed for the talented cast, and the vision of Paulini like a goddess on a church spire singing Aquarius would certainly earn a smile of approval from Marcia Hines.
The age of Aquarius is an astrological phenomenon but in this case, it signifies change for human society and world events. ‘Then peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars’, Paulini sings. ‘Let the sunshine in’ is another memorable refrain – and Paulini does that to perfection.
In fact, all the voices were amazing; strong, vibrant and clear, only overcome occasionally by the musicians, hidden at the back of the stage.
Most of the cast are in their twenties and will overcome some signs of nervousness as Matthew Manahan does as Claude, struggling with his conscience about the war. Prinnie Stevens finally overcame some trouble with her jacket to show her true star quality singing Easy to be Hard to her uncaring lover, Berger, played by Hugh Sheridan.
As a four-time winner of the Most Popular Actor Logie, Sheridan took the gong in this performance. From the minute he leapt onto the stage announcing that he and his ‘tribe’ wore no underwear or watches, he had the audience spellbound. Soon laughter added to the smiles and any doubts about how good this revival might be went out the window.
As a tribe in the sixties, the idea was to change the world, but stripping completely does little for the show apart from leading to the conclusion of the second act. However this team of talent, under the direction of Cameron Menzies, absolutely brings the sunshine in.
4.5 stars out of 5 ★★★★☆
Book and Lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragini
Music By Galt McDermot
Director: Cameron Menzies
Musical Director: Tina Harris
Choreography: Amy Campbell
Starring Paulini, Hugh Sheridan and many more. Full cast and crew credits at the link above.
22 August-12 October 2019
Perth, Geelong, Wyong, Wollongong, Sydney and Gold Coast
Ticket prices vary