In case you weren't able to guess by the title, I went to see Hair yesterday evening. Before I write the review, I just want to say that it was one of the funnest, most enjoyable experiences that I have ever had at the theatre, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves going to the theatre. It was unlike anything that I have ever seen before.
Last night's performance was only the third preview, but pretty much the whole of the original Broadway revival cast had come over to London, so they were really tight anyway, unlike some previews of other shows. It was the first time that I have ever seen a Broadway cast, having never been to New York. It wasn't really much different from seeing a UK cast, but they all seemed really at home in their roles and it was probably one of the most talented ensembles that I've ever seen.
I didn't really know much about the show beforehand. I had received the cast recording for my birthday, and listened to it, but I hadn't really paid much attention when I listened to it. Overall, Act Two was better than Act One because more of the plot was centred in Act Two. Act One seemed to be mainly about introducting the characters and the era. The plot was quite thin compared to some other musicals, but the characters were developed quite well. I really enjoyed the music and it fit really well with the show, helping to move the story along and keep the audience interested. There were only a few ballads, which worked really well and seemed to come at exactly the right moments.
The set was great. It was very simple and allowed the orchestra/band to be on stage, something which always adds to the atmosphere of the show. The set mainly consisted of a large steel frame of staircases at the back to allow the cast to go up there. There were also steps which lead up to the dress circle, and of course steps that lead down into the stalls.
The audience interaction added to the atmosphere and the experience of the show. Even though I sat towards the end of row E, I didn't experience any of this, although it seems all the people sitting around me did. At the end of the show, I was the fifth person to run up onto the stage though. The dance party was so fun, I just wish Gavin had stayed on the stage and not run up to the dress circle.
Diane Paulus directed the piece very well, especially the sensitive moments. She made such good use of the stage, which looked massive compared to how small it seemed when Avenue Q was on at the Gielgud. The choreography, by Karole Armitage, was amazing, it really captured the mood of each scene and allowed all the tribe members to be individuals. The cast as a whole also had such amazing levels of energy and never stopped throughout the whole show.
Onto the cast. Gavin Creel was great as Claude. I saw him play Bert in Mary Poppins a couple of years ago, one of the first West End shows that I ever saw. I really enjoyed his performance then, but he managed to give an even better performance as Claude. He did the sensitive scenes really well, and managed to show many sides of Claude's character. Overall, he probably gave the best acting performance out of the whole cast.
Will Swenson played off Gavin very well, although was a little scary as Berger at times. His comic timing was great, although he was panting in a very strange manner at times. Allison Case stood out as Crissy, in what was quite a small role. The rest of the principals were also very good, and as said before it was probably the best ensemble that I've ever seen in a show.
Overall, Hair was an amazing experience and it was wonderful to have the chance to see something from Broadway. I didn't paticularly love the show, but more the amazing experience and atmosphere that was created in the theatre. Recommended.
I have given up giving shows star ratings, except for shows which I would give 5 stars too, because it became too difficult to differentiate between 3 stars and 4 stars and to do it with the shows relative to each other. I still only have three 5 star shows:
Sunset Boulevard (June 2009)
Forbidden Broadway (July 2009)
Blood Brothers (February 2010)