HAIR The Musical – 50th Anniversary Production, Kings Theatre, Southsea, until Saturday, June 15.
A glorious get-the-audience-up-on-stage finale really did Let The Sunshine In on a foul, wet, rainy night in Portsmouth.
And Good Morning Starshine, not long before, was achingly beautiful.
But the highlights, as great as they were, probably left us with the wrong kind on nostalgia: not so much for how great this cult classic is now, but rather for how wonderful it must have been to see it back in its day.
HAIR was one of the great high-impact musicals of the 1960s, hitting the spot in the flower-power hippie psychedelic summer-of-love days of sex and drugs and Vietnam protests.
It shocked and it stirred – but sadly it doesn’t really do either more than half a century later. Arguably, it really ought to be even more relevant than ever with its anti-war message. But for the most part it’s difficult not to feel we are watching a bizarre museum piece which exists entirely in its own little world of long, long ago.
Which is a shame – because this is a revival huge on skill and energy, a large ensemble cast doing it utmost to breathe life into a musical which really does struggle to reach out to us now.
The big numbers are big because they are absolute classics; but in between, however well performed they are, too many of the other songs are fairly interchangeable, with those all-important lyrics too difficult to make out above the band and through the accents.
At the centre of it all is a terrific performance from Paul Wilkins as Claude, the will-he won’t-he dodge the draft drop-out entering Hair’s hippie tribe of youngsters in the East Village of New York.
In fact, there isn’t a weak link in this impressively strong cast.
But even if the whole thing does end powerfully and strikingly, there’s no disguising the fact that it’s a musical which really doesn’t compel any more. American Idiot is probably the closest thing we’ve got now to doing what Hair must have done then. The result is an overall sense of disappointment – and a wish that we could have been there when the musical first hit the stage back in 1967.