Hair

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This inventive production of Hair The Musical has been on quite a journey these past few years, from first opening at the intimate Hope Mill Theatre back in 2016 to a sell-out London run winning a WhatsOnStage Award along the way; it now makes its return to Manchester opening at the city’s Palace Theatre as part of an extensive 50th anniversary UK tour.

Set in New York’s East Village at a time when the emerging youth counterculture was rejecting mainstream America and growing increasingly disenfranchised by the controversial war in Vietnam, Hair still remains one of the most iconic rock musicals of all time. A tribe of free thinkers who turned their backs on convention creating their own family in which to belong, advocates of peace, love and liberal thinking. Central to the story is the plight of Claude (portrayed brilliantly by Paul Wilkins) torn between rejecting his military drafting and embracing this non-violent, peace loving tribe.

Very much an ensemble production Hair showcases a cast of incredible talent. Opening number Aquarius vibrantly and powerfully sets the scene, drawing the audience into this joyous celebration of love, freedom and pacifism right from the start. Maeve Black’s beautiful set design and costumes transforming the Palace Theatre into a psychedelic heaven lit to perfection by Ben M Rogers.

Director Jonathan O’Boyle ensures the audience are taken along for the ride involving them in this exuberant trip on multiple occasions. Jake Quickenden as Berger confidently leaps into the stalls in little more than a thong while Tom Bates takes great delight in perching on an audience members knee during his hilarious performance as Margaret Mead.

Paul Wilkins heads up the strong cast proving what a talent he is in the role of Claude. Thrown into turmoil at the life changing decision he faces, his anguish and torment delivered with passionate energy. Jake Quickenden makes for a confident and flamboyant Berger, athletically strutting around the stage dishing out powerful vocals along the way. Daisy Wood-Davis shines in the role of Sheila, her voice as powerful as it is beautiful.

Tom Bates has the audience in the palm of his hand as Margaret Mead while Natalie Green as soulful Cassie is a joy. Other notable performances in this excellent ensemble are Alison Arnopp as the enigmatic Jeanie, Aiesha Pease whose rich tones warm the soul and Bradley Judge who is enormously entertaining as Woof.

The cast work together superbly and all deserve praise, they deliver William Whelton’s inspired choreography to perfection, often moving as one, pulsing together in perfect harmony. Musical Director Gareth Bretherton leads the small group of on stage musicians confidently ensuring this electrifying score is given the platform it deserves.

While the themes may not be so shocking to audiences now in more free-thinking, accepting times its message still remains enormously relevant; the despicable quote from Donald Trump heard ringing through the auditorium at the very start proving this point entirely.

Hair gives a touchingly symbolic reminder of the fact that we really are just one tribe. Its hippie, trippy vibe is deliciously infectious bringing every audience member to their feet in celebration of this triumphant piece of theatre while the power of final song Let The Sun Shine In offers hope and proves just how powerfully emotive theatre can be. Hair’s transition from Hope Mill Theatre to the much larger stage of the Palace theatre is seamless as this beautifully crafted and joyously affecting theatre absolutely lets the sun shine in.

On at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Saturday 13th April tickets available here.

 

Peter Bergin is Peter Pan!

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Peter Bergin who trained at Rose Bruford, will take flight in Blackpool as he takes over the role of Peter Pan from Jake Quickenden who will soon be appearing on ITV’s Dancing On Ice.

Featuring a live band, lavish set and spectacular costumes, JM Barrie’s classic story has been wowing audiences at Blackpool’s Winter Garden’s since December 16th. Read our ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review here.

Also appearing are TV star Jennifer Ellison as the villainous Captain Hook, Blackpool’s own Maureen Nolan as Mrs Darling and Radio Wave’s Breakfast Host Scott Gallagher as Hook’s hapless sidekick, Smee.

The show runs until Sunday 7th January, offering audiences just a handful more opportunities to capture this magical family, musical adventure!

Tickets can be purchased here.

Peter Pan

 

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Promising to be a ‘musical adventure’ Selladoor Worldwide bring J.M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan to Blackpool’s Opera House this festive season.

Starring X Factor, I’m A Celeb and soon to be Dancing On Ice favourite Jake Quickenden as Pan with Liverpool legend Jennifer Ellison as the villainous Hook and Maureen Nolan as Mrs Darling, Peter Pan is a magical, feel-good, re-telling of an all time classic.

Designer Jessica Curtis sets the action beneath a large eye catching & atmospheric draped tipi, a simple but effective set which lends itself well to scene changes and captivates audiences imaginations as we fly with Pan, Wendy, John and Michael through their bedroom window to Neverland.

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Quickenden is on fine form as he makes his stage debut, he is hugely likeable and makes for a charismatic Pan, showcasing his vocal talents beautifully in each of the crowd pleasing musical numbers which include Uptown Funk, Can’t Stop The Feeling and We Are Family.

Ellison’s Hook perfectly compliments Quickenden’s Pan, she is fierce, feisty and boy does she know how to play a baddie……oh yes she does! She has the audience in the palm of her hand from the off as she revels in the boos and delights in the hisses, a glint of devilment in her eyes, she’s all about having fun with this role and giving the audience the great time they came for.

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The strong supporting cast work incredibly hard doubling up as both the Lost Boys and Hook’s motley crew to great effect. Director Kirstie Davis ensures each character is clearly defined as they work together seamlessly, each and every cast member full of energy and enthusiasm, engaging the audience entirely. With an additional creative element of puppets taking on the role of Nanny the Dog and the ticking crocodile, both really add to the magic of the piece. Special mention must also go to Grace Osborn as Wendy, strong and sassy, her duet of Breakaway with Quickenden is a real highlight of the show.

The promise of a musical adventure is entirely accurate, while there are some of the fun elements of panto with audience interaction and great humour delivered by local Radio favourite Scott Gallagher as Smee, Robert Marsden’s adaptation of Peter Pan is a step up from the cheeky gags of panto and is more a musical dramatisation of a classic tale. Act One allows the audience to settle into the production before a fast paced all action second act keeps everyone engaged as they will Pan to win the day as he battles to save Wendy, John and Michael from walking Hook’s plank.

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The production has something for everyone, an engaging story, well chosen musical numbers, lots of humour as well as strong individual performances. Let your heart be warmed by this magical adventure, highly entertaining, well delivered and jolly good family fun.

On at Blackpool’s Opera House until Saturday 7th January tickets available here.