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Gold Coast review – Hair: opening night audience clapped and cheered

By Douglas Kennedy


The Tribal Rock Musical Hair

 Book and Lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado

 Music by Galt MacDermott

Directed by Amy-Louise Anderson and Kim Reynolds

Booking Phone: 07 55322096. Season ends July 20

Running time two hours (with 20-minute intermission).

Photo from Trina Power Creative, David and Beau Reynolds\

The sixties musical theatre sensation, Hair, is tipped to be The Gold Coast Little Theatre’s box office smash for 2024. This almost modern classic, which opened to a packed house this weekend, is peppered with themes that still resonate and timeless songs.

Among the show’s most enduring hits are Aquarius, Good Morning Starshine, Let the Sunshine In and the title song, Hair.

When Hair opened, first in New York and later London in the late sixties, its nudity, language and refences to sexual freedom and drugs were highly controversial.

Then it came to Australia and established the reputation of stars such as Reg Livermore, John Waters and then 16-year-old Marcia Hines.

Now almost a lifetime later it’s again on the Coast.

The ageing members of the GCLT opening night audience simply clapped and cheered with the rest of the packed house, and, ironically, many of the older men had little or no hair.

But what made this production so memorable were the electric performances of the 20-plus youthful cast members, and the creativity of the production crew.

Hair is set in New York’s Central Park, where a crowd of middle-class hippy dropouts congregate, and the tribal rock musical unfolds.

Here the tribe takes the audiences on a musical journey through their world of drugs, free love, and passive rebellion against the established order.

The leader of the pack, to coin another sixties phase, is charismatic extrovert George Berger (Ezekiel Whitecross).

Among the most prominent members of the tribe are Woof (Jake Cropley), who is smitten with Mick Jagger while assuring everyone he isn’t homosexual (the old-fashioned word for gay), the pregnant Jeanie (Chelsea Jamieson) and the political activist Sheila (Bella Jannsen) among many others.

Through the course of Hair’s telling, we learn that just about everyone in the tribe is hooked on someone else and their concerns are similar to those of today.

Through a digest of more than 30 songs we learn that these youngsters are worried about pollution, although climate change hasn’t hit the headlines yet, war, the Vietnam War, known as the dirty little war, is still raging, and the teenage hormonal preoccupation with sex (in all its manifestations).

The show’s story centres on the arrival of Claude (Flynn Anderson), who has just received his call-up papers.

From then on, the driving force of the narrative is the push to persuade Claude to burn his draft, which many anti-war activists did back then.

This youthful cast is full of the raw energy, which drove the original production, and the vocal and musical qualities are evident.

Everyone had a ball on opening night, but among the standout features of the production was work done behind the spotlight and in the preparation.

This reviewer was particularly struck by the imagination that went into Kim Reynolds’ choreography, Steffanie Gowland’s vocal work, the band under the direction of Jake Cropley and the input of many others.

Then there’s the teams who designed and built the set with its small, but intrinsic features such as the bridge leading off stage and a mound, and a tree branch, so the performers weren’t always on the ground.

A production of this size and scope is like a giant jigsaw, and its pieces must all fit together, which they do under the joint direction of Amy-Louise Anderson and Kim Reynolds.

When shows of this size appear on the great stages of the world – such as Broadway and London’s West End – they come with a multi-million-dollar bank roll. When they find their way to community theatres, such as the GCLT, they have much smaller budgets, so their success depends on people power.

This time around the Southport theatre community has flexed its creative muscle and created something which comes out of the top draw.

On opening night this reviewer was told tickets are selling fast, but there are still seats available.

This is one to enjoy.


A blast from the past


Reviewer Douglas Kennedy first saw The Tribal Rock Musical Hair shortly following his 17th birthday on September 28th, 1968, at the West End’s Shaftesbury Theatre.

He knows this because the show had its London premiere on September 27, and he managed to get a single ticket to the second night.

Back then he didn’t go to the theatre often, but Hair had been the talk of London Town since it was announced that it was coming following a Broadway run earlier in the year.

The show was said to contain nudity, foul language, references to drug use and various sexual practices.

Kennedy’s defense is that any normal teen would have been intrigued at such a proposition as much out of curiosity than succumbing to dark forces.

The much-advertised opening night was delayed until the abolition of theatre censorship, controlled by a British establishment known as the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, which dated back to the Theatres Act of 1843.

By the 1960s many playwrights and producers wanted this restriction removed so that controversial works, such as the stage version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, could be produced.

Censorship ended in Britain on September 26 and the following night the production opened, billed as an American Tribal Love-Rock Musical.

Hair broke new ground in both censorship and the emerging rock musical scene.

The show also introduced new talent including Paul Nicolas, Elaine Page, Marsha Hunt, Oliver Tobias, Tim Curry and the man who would go on to create The Rocky Horror Show, Richard O’Brien.

The London production of Hair eclipsed the Broadway run and played for 1,997 performances.

The show only closed when part of the roof of the Shaftsbury Theatre collapsed in 1973.

And what did Kennedy think of the show?

“I loved the music, but I found the story then difficult to follow, although I got the basics,” he says.

“The controversial stuff didn’t make much of an impression and I remember the nude scene, played in a darkened stage behind a net, didn’t shock.

“However, I did go out and buy a record of the cast recording, which I have got to this day.”









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