An open mind… that’s the best approach as Hair – The Musical heads to Southsea’s King’s Theatre from June 10-15 and Brighton Theatre Royal from July 8-13.
“And I mean a really, really open mind,” says Paul Wilkins, who is playing Claude.
Paul, originally from Gosport, admits that Hair is a bit of a Marmite musical.
“I think it is just so unconventional as a musical. Most people that come and see it will either say they were blown away or they just didn’t get the story. It is quite limited in terms of plot. The writers wanted to share with their audience many different changes in society and that was difficult to do with just one story. My storyline is there but every other tribe member puts forward an idea to the audience.”
It was certainly a musical with high impact when it first came out.
Welcome to the Age of Aquarius. It’s 1967 and Hair’s hippie tribe youngsters in the East Village of New York are yearning to change the world, questioning authority and the American flag. Wild, colourful, sexually liberated and free, they are united in protest and song, under the shadow of the Vietnam War.
The Grammy award-winning score features iconic hits including Aquarius, Let the Sun Shine In, I Got Life and Good Morning Starshine, written by Gerome Ragni (book and lyrics), James Rado (book and lyrics) and Galt MacDermot (music).
“Back in the day, in many countries it was still illegal to be gay, and this deals with that. It also highlights a lot of racial changes in America and other countries,” Paul says.
“It was born out of what the American dream was when a lot of people in America wanted that dream of being man and wife and having a white picket fence and a dog and two children.
“All that was very standardised, but times were changing, and it was getting to the point where people were allowed to be themselves rather than just doing what was expected.
“It’s a period piece as we refer to certain things at the time, and there is a song called Initials which is talking about LBJ who was the president.
“It is about various people that were around at that time, and when you bring an American piece of theatre to the UK, if you have not read up on it, then you might struggle a bit maybe, but regardless of all that, it is still incredibly relevant because it is all about self-expression and being yourself.”
So what preparation does Paul recommend before coming to see the show.
“Well… nothing really. I think it is a great show, but it is a difficult show, but I think you just need to forget anything you have ever thought about the piece before and just come with an open mind, and I mean a really, really open mind.
“It might be that there is a song that you just don’t connect with, but that doesn’t matter. You just listen to the next one. At the end, if you speak to two different members of the audience, they will each have a difference experience of the show – the same as if you spoke to a couple of different members of the cast.
“I think that is the key to it, just to be open to it.”
The cast also features Dancing on Ice’s 2018 champion Jake Quickenden as Berger, Hollyoaks’ Daisy Wood-Davis as Sheila and X Factor 2011 finalist Marcus Collins as Hud.
Tickets from kingsportsmouth.co.uk.