When you hear this song played, you automatically think of the 1960s, the decade of turmoil. Vietnam. Assassinations. War protests. You also think of the musical Hair, which originally premiered on Broadway and in the West End in 1968.
Forty-two years later and Hair is back in London, after opening up in New York last year.
This new production at The Gielgud Theatre is not really a new production at all, but almost the same production that was staged back in the late '60s. One would think it would make more sense to update the references from the Vietnam war to the Iraq war to make it more timely, but if this was done, it would take away from the messages it conveyed back in the '60s - make love not war, keep the peace, and resist the draft. The all-American cast, which has been transported from the New York show, looks like they are having the time of their lives on stage. They're youthful and energetic, dancing in the aisles, interacting with the audience, and literally climbing over the theatregoers in their seats.
The story, if there is one amidst this celebration of love and peace, takes place in 1967. Free love and drug and sexual experimentation is all the rage. A handful of teenagers hang out and fall in love with each other, and don't yet realize it will be their generation which will change the world. Right around the corner there will be the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., and the Vietnam war will get worse, and the world will not be the same again. The male teenagers all resist the draft and disobey their parents and authority figures. One very dramatic scene shows the young men throwing their draft cards into a burning trash bin, while one man, Claude (sensitively and effectively played by Gavin Creel), cannot do it, and he is sent to war. His friends disapprove, including Will Swenson playing Berger, who is very energetic and who dominates the stage with his character’s larger-than-life personality and hyperkinetic moves on stage.
Hair was the first production to display full-frontal nudity, and again it is on display in a tasteful and subtle manner. And the set, while minimal, is reminiscent of Rent (or is the other way around?). Hair features two of what are perhaps the greatest songs ever written - Let the Sun Shine In and Aquarius, songs that still stand up today. Other songs are very recognizable 40 years after they were written, with much deserved credit going to the songwriters Jerome Rado, Gerome Ragni and Galt Macdermott. Sasha Allen belts out the opening number of Aquarius, and what a voice she has - wow! And American Director Diane Paulus has kept the show’s uplifting spirit.
Amidst everything going on in this show, the message is the same now as it was then: make love and not war, celebrate life, love and freedom. It's a passionate cry for hope and change. And at the end, Hair turns into one big party, where the audience is encouraged to join in!