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Theatre Review: Hair ***

Michael Cox reviews the 50th anniversary tour of the seminal musical.

Hair is a difficult piece to produce: it contains what might be one of musical theatre's greatest collection of songs but has a script that is near-on impossible to make sense out of. What it lacks for plot it makes up for in creativity, and any successful production needs to not only make the music work but find ways in making the characters compelling--even with flimsy dramatic material.

This might be why the musical doesn't get as many productions as the popularity of its songs merit. And if there is a huge bonus to watching the current tour, marking the 50th anniversary of its landmark opening, it is in the joy of hearing these brilliant songs brought to dramatic life--the production sounds terrific and has fun in its staging, particularly in the second act's surreal drug trip.

Disappointingly, while most of the cast are able to perform the songs well, they aren't as successful in creating interesting characters. Jake Quickenden sings Berger's songs with relish, but he lacks the charisma of a leader of a tribe of social 'drop outs', and many of the actors come to life in the songs but barely manage to personify compelling characters through the music or the shallow dialogue. Only Bradley Judge as Woof and Alison Arnopp as Jeanie bring welcome acting sparks to the show--shame neither character has a lot of individual stage time.

But it does come back to the music, which is terrific and still potent 50 years on. Those who haven't seen Hair performed live should find much to enjoy, even if those looking for any substance in plot or character will find nothing but a puff of smoke.

Reviewed at Edinburgh Playhouse. Hair continues its UK tour until August.

Tags: theatre

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