The day after receiving very positive reviews, what is the best the American company of HAIR can look forward to? Me and Owen in the audience of course!
Yes it was time to re-visit Diane Paulus' explosive production that we had previously seen in February with most of the same cast in New York.If anything, I thought it was even better at the Gielgud. I was a bit worried how a London audience would take to the show but the audience were up for it from the get-go and I suspect the prospect of performing this very American-themed show with all it's now-obscure cultural references to a London audience made the cast go for it a little harder.
Yes the book still has problems, Claude's extended bad trip sequence does seem to go on a bit - although it does feature the marvellous ABIE BABY - but the sheer brio and exuberance of the cast carry you through the dodgy patches.It was great to become re-acquainted with the cast members from NY such as Will Swenson's Berger and in particular Gavin Creel's Claude - his torment over what is his ultimate destiny is palpable in an excellent rendering of WHERE DO I GO at the end of the first act, so good he pulls the focus from the company stripping off behind him! His choice leaves him invisible to his former compadres and leads to a stunning coup-de-theatre.
It was a pleasure to see Caissie Levy again as Sheila, the political activist doomed to be disappointed in love and life - her soaring voice turns EASY TO BE HARD into a genuine showstopper as well as sparkling in I BELIEVE IN LOVE and GOOD MORNING STARSHINE.
Two performers who I wasn't sure of in New York made a greater impression here: Kacie Sheik as the pregnant Jeannie made the most of her one-liners and got a massive laugh on her Mary Magdalene gag - I guess I was so used to Linda Kendrick's version of AIR on the London cast album - and Darius Nichols was great as Hud - during the HAIR number he crawled over the stalls seats and made it all the way to K row where we were!
It was sad that Bryce Ryness didn't make the trip as he was great as Woof but it was delight to see Allison Case as Chrissy as she had left the cast by the time we saw the NY production. She gave a winning performance as the love-lorn Chrissy and carefully managed to steer her rendition of FRANK MILLS through the lines that elicited laughs to the touching last line. I happily "Woo"ed at the end.
The real bugger was that we didn't see Sasha Allen as Dionne - again! She was off in New York and she was off again last night - c'mon gurl... it ain't THAT taxing a role.
However we had instead the delightfully-named Phyre Hawkins who raised the roof at the top of the show with AQUARIUS and also raunched the bumhole out of WHITE BOYS.
Special mentions must go to Andrew Kober and Megan Lawrence who step out of "The Tribe" to play Claude's parents as well as scene-stealing turns as Margaret Mead and Buddhadalirama respectively.
Oh and the cherry on the cake?
During the finale the audience are invited on stage.... OH COURSE WE DID! It was a great experience to join the teeming crowd on the stage and dance to the finale music played by the rockin' Hair Band.
My estimation of the company went up leaps and bounds while up there - those damn lights make it boiling up there!
Owen has booked for us to see it again soon - can't wait!