Monday, 27 February 2012

Once in a lifetime...

The BBC recently broadcast a series detailing the history of musical theatre. Having fallen in love with musical theatre after seeing 'Starlight Express' at the age of 11, I was intrigued to see behind-the-scene snippets of various productions that I have seen on stage.

The first episode looked at British playwrights trying to "make it" on Broadway and the history of theatre in the 1960s/1970s. One milestone in theatre came with the arrival of the "American Tribal Love Rock Musical" - HAIR - a show which pushed the boundaries of censorship in various ways.

In 2004 I participated in a production of HAIR in a cast of only 19 people. All members of the cast were on stage for every song and in on all the "in jokes". It genuinely was like one large family.

Still to this day I get shivers when I hear the music, in particular the part in 'flesh failures' where the company sing under Claude:

 Claude                                                                                Company

Manchester England England
Manchester England England                                         Eyes look your last
Across the Atlantic Sea                                                 
Arms take your last embrace
And I'm a genius genius                                                And lips oh you the doors of breath
I believe in God                                                            Seal with a righteous kiss
And I believe that God believes in Claude                       Seal with a righteous kiss
That's me, that's me, that's me                                      The rest is silence
                                                                                   The rest is silence
                                                                                   The rest is silence

©Jim Rado and Jerry Ragni
Every so often, when the old cast discuss upcoming shows/projects, we reminisce about the unique experience of being involved in HAIR. In such a small cast, we became very close and there had to be respect and trust amongst the cast in order to perform the nude scene with the required dignity, humanity and innocence. There was occasional talk about doing a revival - but on the condition that the same cast was involved. Drunk on nostalgia we talk about how rare the experience was and how we would love to re-live it.
But can such an experience ever truly be recreated?
Sadly, I think not. It was what it was because of who we were as people at the time and inevitably, we all have changed over the years. Therefore, an attempt to recreate that unique rapport between castmembers could be difficult, and should it not fulfil expectation our memories would be tarnished rather than filled with the recollection of the extraordinary bond we shared at the time.
Despite performing in several other productions over the years, HAIR still holds a special place in my heart and memory. In many ways, it's impossible to put into words how it affected me.

It was a 'once in a lifetime' production... And maybe, that's how it should be.

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