Thursday, 12 March 2009

You may have noticed a theme of the author using this space to show pictures of guys she fancies, today is no exception.

I'm bored, its time for another Musical Theatre (not so) Weekly! I've also realised that this format is almost the same as Seth Rudetsky's chapters on musicals to see from The Q Guide to Broadway. I think we must both be psychic as I only got that book last week and these were written about a year ago.

This time, Hair, which has recently been revived at the Al Hirshfield and I would kill for a plane fare and ticket to see it. The review was written last year so pre-Jonathan Groff/Gavin Creel but post-Actors Fund. But as there haven't been many Creel-Claude photos yet, I've selected a few of the very pretty Jonathan Groff Esquire.

Yay, I did my A Level history project on this time period so I can tell you all about it!
The Vietnam War ran from 1959 to 1975, between America (supporting South Vietnam) and North Vietnam- the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. This war was one of the first that everyday Americans actually believed was avoidable; this image was not helped by extensive television coverage on the subject. To get enough troops to sustain the war the government had to introduce conscription, whereby every young man could be forced to join the army, navy or air force unless they could provide a good reason why not. Most of those trying to escape the “draft” went to Canada or claimed they were homosexuals. Many draft-dodgers were hippies- a counter culture that evolved out of the Beatniks- think Allen Ginsberg the poet and Hunter S Thompson the writer portrayed by Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The Hippies believed in free love, non-violence and generally hanging around taking drugs.
Hair was conceived by two such hippies- James Rado and Gerry Ragni who also happened to be actors. It took a while for Hair to get up and running generally due to most producers being old and stuffy and not liking new things (theatres at the time were still enjoying very traditional shows like Oliver! and Fiddler on the Roof. When Hair did get to the stage, it quickly became very popular as it was a show that younger people would want to see and take their parents to say “look Mom and Pop, here’s what I’m doing with my life and why”. Hair came to London featuring famous faces like Richard O Brien (Bald guy from Crystal Maze and writer of The Rocky Horror Show), Tim Curry (Star of The Rocky Horror Show and the bad guy in most films since Home Alone 2) and Floella Benjamin( I know I was surprised too, I still find her really scary though). The last production of Hair in London was in 1993 and featured none other than John Barrowman (yes, Captain Jack from Torchwood!!)

The plot of the film is totally different to that of the show; the show is more a collection of songs about being a hippy, getting chucked out of school, getting high and then going to war. So I’m going to focus more on the plot of the film as it’s a bit more structured and you’re more likely to see it than the show.
The film of Hair focuses on Claude, a “good middle class young man” from a rather conservative background who is supposed to be on his way to conscript into the US Army at the time of the Vietnam War. He is befriended by a group of hippies in Central Park and, not for the last time in the film, smoke some pot. The next morning they go chasing after Sheila, a posh girl that Claude fancies and end up crashing her parents dinner and ending up in prison. As everyone does when in jail, they sing a big production number about how their hair is so great and enables them to get out of prison. They go take some more drugs, this time it’s LSD and so they go around Central Park hallucinating for a bit until it’s the hippies realise Claude has to go to Boot Camp the next day.
Claude reluctantly goes to Boot Camp and his friends follow him to say a final goodbye before he goes to war. Unfortunately this doesn’t really go to plan, I won’t say how as that would ruin the story but it is really sad and provides one of the most atmospheric moments of the show and really brings the message home.

Main Characters:Claude: The all-American conservative ready to join the army, he fancies Sheila
Berger: The “free spirit of the group”, he also fancies Sheila (are there any musicals that don’t contain love triangles?)
Sheila: The “pretty one” who also happens to be rather rich
Hud, Woof, Jeanie, Crissy, Dionne: Various hippy friends of Sheila and Berger

Songs to look out for:
Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine In): Without ruining the plot, this is a really tragic song with so much emotion (but you have to watch it with someone singing it, listening to the soundtrack means nothing)
Going Down-Not the greatest melody, but the YouTube clip I found had Gavin Creel just wearing his trousers and a bunch of ties (oh the irony)…
I Got Life-Yes the song from the Muller adverts and yes, I checked it is the same song. Isn’t it funk-ay?

Where can I can get it?The DVD’s still hanging around, although don’t watch it when you’re ill, I did that and it felt like I was on a 2 hour trip.
If not, there are usually clips of some sort on YouTube.

Sad face :(
If you liked this, try:Rent-Same Bohemian ideals just brought up to the 1980s instead.
Miss Saigon- If Hair is the musical about not going to war, Miss Saigon is the flipside of what happened to those who did fight in the Vietnam War. There’s a copy of the original cast recordings of both these musicals in the library which I now expect to be completely unobtainable because all you lovely people have got them out.

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