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History’s hairier issues
Hair: The Rock Muscial has sexuality, singing and a solid, award-winning script that marks it as one of Midsumma’s premiere events at this year’s festival.
It tells the story of long-haired hippies living in New York during the Vietnam War, fighting against conscription and frankly illustrating that era’s use of drugs, sexuality, nationalism and nudity. Director Robbie Carmellotti spoke to the Star Observer about the upcoming show.
Hair is set in the late 1960’s in the USA – how relevant is it to today’s audiences in Melbourne?
Look it’s relevant when it equates to things of today. It’s very much an era based show or a period-piece show now so I’m not trying to modernise it to connect it to anything into to today’s day and age. But when you’re watching it and you’re watching these young kids get conscripted to go to war and they’ve had no choice and they’ve had their friends and family killed so they’re fighting against going to this war. They’re fighting for freedom and they’re fighting for their friends and their loved ones – you can’t help not connect it to things like Iraq. You can’t help not connect it to 9/11 and you can’t help not connect things like black people not being able to vote to gay people not being allowed to get married. So even though the actual issues that they are dealing with in the show might not be as relevant today, the topics are.
How do you feel about performing at Midsumma?
We chose the show partly for Midsumma. We worked with Midsumma once before and we loved the community spirit and the organisation and we love everything that they represent. So when we were deciding what show we were going to do, Hair was chosen specifically for Midsumma because it’s got a lot of gay appeal and the message in it is very pro-homosexuality and equality. Also, it’s a pretty sexy show at the same time so you’re getting appeal from all elements of it. It’s not cheap, tacky guys dancing around naked – that sounds like I’m bagging out naked boys singing but I’m not. You know what I mean, it’s not your cliche, tacky show it’s got all the Midsumma requirements but it has some depth and some soul to the storyline.
Well, I’m super excited because we’re doing the broadway revival version which has never been done except on Broadway and the West End. So the script has been transformed somewhat from its original form: certain elements have been re-written and some songs have been changed etc. It’s a really new kind of free-flowing show. It hones in on the war, all of the psychadelic sections of the show are little more understandable. It’s just a really high-energy, fun show as well. No one in Australia, unless you’ve been to New York or West End, have seen the Tony Award-winning version. I couldn’t be happier, it’s a bit of gold mine for me as a director.
How do you think Australians will do with the nudity?
There is a nude scene and I think you deal with it pretty well. If you have seen Hair, you understand there’s nothing sexual about the nude scene. When it gets to that point in the show it’s a moment of liberation and contentment and spirituality. There’s actually nothing sexually arousing about it because in the lead up to what’s actually happening which is when they are trying to stop their friend from going to war and this is all they’ve got: just them and their bodies. You kind of want to join in, there’s nothing dirty about it and nothing grotesque about it…
Are you expecting audiences to get involved?
I certainly hope not.
INFO: Hair: The Rock Musical premieres January 31 and runs until February 17 at Chapel Off Chapel. For more info, visit www.midsumma.org.au.
What’s Hot at Midsumma
Goddess Grooves • Jan 26, 8pm • Thornbury Theatre
Lowrez • Feb 2 & 3 • Gasworks
Mouth to Mouth • Jan 24 – 26, 7pm • Collins Quarter
Word Is Out 2013 • Jan 16 – Feb 1 • Hares & Hyenas
Twunks • Feb 1 & 2, 7pm • GH Hotel
Gobsmacked • Jan 15 – Feb 3 • Butterfly Club
Transit • Jan 23 – Feb 1 • Gasworks, 7pm
“8” The Play • Jan 31 – Feb 2 • Chapel Off Chapel
Manhunt Pool Party • Feb 2, 12 – 8pm • The Peel
Closet Party • Feb 1, 10pm • First Floor
Moulin Beige • Jan 31, 7pm • Burlesque Bar
Caravan Burlesque • Jan 31 – Feb 9 • Northcote Town Hall