Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Hair the Musical review at New Wimbledon Theatre, London – ‘diluted touring version of an energetic production’

The cast of Hair the Musical at New Wimbledon Theatre, London. Photo: Johan Persson
by -

Jonathan O’Boyle’s production of the 1960s countercultural musical Hair opened at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester in 2016. A semi-immersive run at the Vaults followed to tie in with the musical’s 50th anniversary.

This tour takes the show onto much larger stages, but in scaling it up, the impact of the original is diluted.

Hair is a problematic show in many ways, at odds with its own mythology, but it contains a strong message, pressing for peace and love in a time of war and social unrest.

The sheer energy of O’Boyle’s production remains intact, but the proscenium-arch staging stymies any real intimacy, despite Jake Quickenden, as the rebellious hippie Berger, leaping into the stalls wearing little more than a thong.

The more pensive moments are distorted or overplayed, while William Whelton’s confident choreography is more reminiscent of A Chorus Line than a hippie commune.

There is, however, much to love about Maeve Black’s colourful set and costumes, and flashes of brilliance remain. Paul Wilkins’ jubilant rendition of I Got Life lights up the stage, as does the show’s penultimate anthem, Let the Sunshine In. Hollyoaks’ Daisy Wood-Davis hits just the right tone, as the passionate Sheila; she has an astounding voice.

O’Boyle’s production may lack the sophistication of the Hope Mill’s revival of Pippin but this is a crowd-pleasing show that will introduce a wider audience to this powerhouse fringe theatre and its work.

Director Jonathan O’Boyle: ‘After treading water in my 20s, I wanted to go on and not look back’

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Entertaining, energetic touring production of the 1960s musical that loses some of its power on a larger stage