HAIR was a revolutionary rock musical that broke all the rules, and 2019 marks 50 years since its 1969 Australian opening night at the Metro Theatre in Kings Cross. To celebrate this milestone, a talented tribe of Australian musical theatre stars have joined a new production of the groundbreaking show, which is touring nationally now, and finishing up with two epic shows at HOTA, Home of the Arts in October.
Four-time Logie award winning TV and theatre star, Hugh Sheridan, two time ARIA award winning Paulini, the sensational star of The Voice, Prinnie Stevens, South East Queensland’s own Angelique Cassamatis and newcomer Matthew Manahan have all donned bell-bottoms for the brand new Australian production of HAIR, which centres on a collective of young friends named ‘The Tribe’, who are passionate about issues like the environment, free-love and peace, and who are rebelling against the conservative mainstream.
Directed by multi-talented, award-winning director Cameron Menzies, HAIR the musical is ready to push to the boundaries once more. We caught up with Cameron himself and star Prinnie Stevens just prior to the national tour kick off, and found out how they were feeling about opening night being just around the corner.
“I feel great!” Prinnie exclaims. “This is the crazy part, this is when it gets hectic, we’re putting everything together and we’ll be on the stage soon! It’s fun and scary,” she laughs.
Cameron agrees. “It’s the thin edge of the wedge!”
They both sounds incredibly pumped, and they should be. HAIR is one of the most talked about musicals of all time, and contains much to challenge and inspire an audience. Set in 1967 America during the Vietnam War, HAIR explores the anti-war sentiment of America’s youth and everything counter-culture of the time stood for, including free love and prolific drug use, which culminates in an infamous trip scene that I assume must’ve be a whole lot fun to create and perform.
“The scene is great because there are no rules,” admits Cameron. “There’s no logic in it at all. We actually tried to put logic in it, and it didn’t work. It’s just a crazy array of historical characters coming through and getting wilder and wilder. It’s been a lot of fun to put on and have that sense of absolute freedom.”
Prinnie jumps in.
“I’ve done so much commercial theatre and tv and all sorts of things, but I’ve never done something like this where there are no-holds-barred. There’s no limit, there’s nothing too crazy it’s really exciting and this cast is really willing to go all the way and push our limits, and Cameron is just letting us be crazy,” she laughs.
Letting them let their hair down, you might even say. Jokes aside, HAIR gets pretty serious, too. Cameron reflects on a moment that shook him during rehearsals.
“The song ‘Three-Five-Zero-Zero’. What people bring to those individual moments is just the greatest. I mean it’s a song about bodies being ripped apart in war, it’s horrific, and what every cast member brings to it is very special and will have a massive impact. It humanises war, all these kids going off with their hopes and dreams.”
For Prinnie, the relatable nature of the piece has been one of the more intense aspects.
“Cameron’s done an amazing job in allowing us to stand up for what we individually believe in. HAIR is set in the sixties but Cameron’s been adamant about relating it to something that means something to us, whether that’s female power, or racism or whatever it is for the individuals in that moment, you really do see it all pouring out from all of us.
“The thing that really shocked me is how vulnerable it is,” she continues. “How much heart it has. Every day as a cast we find new things. Yesterday during ‘Let The Sunshine In’ I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. Paulini just took it to church, all of us were in tears.”
Cameron agrees. “Paulini was born to sing that song.”
If the trip scene in HAIR is infamous, then the nude scene is downright notorious, particularly, I imagine, to the unsuspecting sixties crowds. I can’t let the opportunity to ask about it slip past. Are they really going for it?
Cameron chuckles. “You’ll just have to wait and see!”
Dammit. Knowing when I’m beaten, I move on, and ask him what he hopes audiences will take away from the show.
“From a directorial point of view, I want people to actually just walk in someone else’s shoes even for a few steps. I feel like the world’s empathy is very lacking at the moment. I feel like if people walk away and just for a moment stand in someone else’s shoes, then I think we’ve done something to make the world a better place.”
Well. What a hippie.
Join hands with the cast of HAIR when they hit HOTA, Home of the Arts on 11 and 12 October 2019. Tickets via hota.com.au.