With the biggest advance sale of any show ever to play Toronto, Hair, the American tribal rock musical that has sung and swung in fiftenn cities around the world opened in Toronto's Royal Alexandra Theatre, January 11.
Every performance is a sell-out and seats are now selling for April. It is predicted that the show will run until the end of the year.
The Hair production office is the largest theatrical set-up to arrive in Toronto where Hair is being produced by original producer michael Butler and Glen warren Productions, the producing arm of CFTO.
The twenty-nine members of the Toronto cast - chosen from over 1,000 - are Arta Brown; Avril Chown; Joe Clark; Harriet Cohen; Gale garnett; Brenda Gordon; Rachel Jacobson; Tabby Johnson; Michael Kennedy; Tobi Lark; George W. Lee IV; Carmen Litke; Susan Little; Frank Moore; Freddie Nicolaidis; Colleen Peterson; Betty Richardson; Clint Ryan; Paul Ryan; Wayne St. John; Shelley Sommers; Lynda Squires; Geff Stevenson; Graham Teear; Laurel Ward and Robin White.
One of the reasons Hair is such a success if the show's proven music. It has been a long time since even one song from a broadway musical hit the best-seller charts.
Then, suddenly, Hair was all over the nations airwaves. It's original cast album was No. 1, destined to become the biggest seller of all time, and four of its songs, Aquarius, Let The Sunshine In, Hair, and Good Morning Starshine hit the No. 1 spot.
hair was on its way to becoming an international institution, with new companies springing up in the United States and throughout the world. But it didn't quite begin that way.
It was back in the early part of 1967 that two disreputable-looking characters named Gerome Ragni and james Rado walked into the office of music expert Nat Shapiro, carrying a withered briefcase filled with notes and drawings on brown paper bags, napkins and old envelopes, which, when pieced together, turned out to be the first draft for the lyrics and script of Hair. They and their work were dedicated to the non-philosophy of non-violence, love, exploration of the senses and a demonstrative rejection of materialism. Their first concern was finding a suitable composer.
Shapiro, inspired to say the least by their creative effort, introduced them to galt macDermot, a square-looking Staten Island resident with four children, who somehow understood and loved the kind of music they were seeking. Within 36 hours he had completed six songs and came up with a thousand ideas. Within four days the show had been completed and was ready for a producer.
Hair began making the rounds, but no one knew what to do with a free-style, 25-character folk-rock-oriented musical about a tribe a lovable kids who smoke pot, burn their draft cards, and trade their chicks. Jerome Robbins, with whom Ragni had been studying and working, loved it, but was too busy. A few other producers and directors were intrigued but unconvinced that it could be commercially practical. Some were offended by its four-letter words and others by its violent put-down of the establishment.
Then along came Joseph Papp, who chose Hair as the vehicle to launch his partially subsidized New York Shakespeare Festival at the downtown Public theater. It opened for a limited eight-week engagment and was an immediate sell-out, but it soon had no where to go.
Then Michael Butler, a fifth generation financier, saw the show and was so turned on, he was determined to keep it alive.
Hair was moved lock, stock and props to Cheetah, a mid-town discotheque. Great - till it was announced that the building was about to be torn down. hair was again to be cut off in its prime.
Butler then took over completely, buying the rights from Papp, allowing the authors to revise their work without any restriction, and bring in Tom O'Horgan to enlarge the show's scope and give it a new dimension. The work was begun and on April 12, 1968, hair was firmly transplanted at The Biltmore theatre on broadway.
That the nioght would prove historic was something no one at the time could predict. But the reviews quickly confirmed that Hair was indeed a milestone in the American musical theatre and that Broadway would never quite be the same.
The question is, will Toronto?
Copyright Scene 1970.