Hair: The Musical, part of the Midsumma festival.

The cast of Hair: The Musical.

Reviewer rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

MIDSUMMA FESTIVAL
Presented by StageArt
Chapel Off Chapel
Until February 17

THE musical Hair is an odd one. As a glamorous commercial portrayal of '60s counterculture, it was always already a parody of it, while at the same time being in deadly earnest about its ''make love not war'' message.

This Midsumma revival has high production values for independent musical theatre. It looks great: the costumes and wigs are full of paisley-inflected, stagey, half-mocking nostalgia.

The band sits around a couple of ratty couches upstage, while the scene swells with a large cast of (admittedly freshly scrubbed) hippies, working the audience with glee.

There are some terrific performances that should have talent scouts out in force. Ashley Rousetty's Claude leads the way, bringing a fragile charisma to the messiah of the piece.

His willowy frame and high cheekbones are perfect for the part; his presence matched by a strong voice with great range.

Around him other stars of the tribe congregate: Sam Kitchen's louche ringleader; Dianne Algate as the low-rent, pot-smoking earth mother; Samuel Dariol's mischievous bisexual imp; the naive charm of Veronica Wnuk's ingenue. Josh Stent also gives a remarkable drag cameo.

The chorus numbers are tightly staged. Paul Malek's choreography is elaborate, eye-catching and exuberant. The set has some impressive reveals.

While the first half had as much energy and lustre as you could hope for, technical problems (mikes brushing against wigs perhaps) tarnished the singing in a distracting way after interval. That sorted out the wheat from the chaff, in terms of onstage confidence.

It's an entertaining production that will be even better once the sound hitch has been resolved.