Bilingual Hair Poses Cast Problem For Franco-Anglais Montreal Production
by Charles Lazarus
Variety - September 2, 1970


Editors Note; This article is transcribed as printed. The gramatical awkwardness at certain points suggests that, just as the problem the article discusses, this article was translated from the "francais'

Of the 20 Hair productions now showing around the globe, the version skedded for a Sept. 22 opening at the Comedie Canadienne here, will probably rate particularly intense spotlighting because:

    -- It will be the only one with a bilingual cast, speaking French and English 9all local talent) to accomodate Montreal tow-language fact.

    --It will be a bilingual Hair with individual language integrity, ie., eight performances weekly (matinees Wednesday and Sunday) split five completely in French, three in English.

    --It is coming in after beaucoups controversy triggered by the refusal of Marcel Piche, president of place des Arts, to let the show play Montreal's culture complex because he personally considers it "vulgar."

The uproar dragged on for months, until the production of Hair in Toronto, always known for its puritan image, turned out to be a smash without any degenerating effects on the community.

Montreal production of Hair has completed casting at the Comedie Canadienne, owned by Gratien Gelinas, one of Canada's best known theatrical figures; producers are Samuel Gesser, local impressario who's been responsicle for more breakthroughs and brinksmanship than almost anyone in local show biz and Michael Gelinas, son of Gratien.

Also coproducing is John Bassett, son of the Toronto Telegram publishing family, and Michael Butler, who ownes the original property.  Young Bassett, product of true establishmant mold is coproducer of the Toronto Hair which has been running nine months, attracted an attendance of well over 250,000 at close to 300 performances, and grossed more than $2,000,000.

Montreal productions, whose costs have been tabbed at $150,000, is expected to run until December, much depending, of course, on the type of exploitation and publicity that can be done outside the city.

Local population is expected to deliver some important support, because of the unique bilingual appeal - one of the big problems is how to work in the four-letter script in francais which colloquially and vernacularly, is much different here than in Paris - but important pitchmanship will also be practiced in large U.S. cities which send hordes of tourists and conventioneers ro Montreal.

Because the cast must have very Special linguistic talent, being able to switch and think in English one night, and in French the next, the thinking by Gesser and Gelinas is that company might undertake a national tour of Canada after the local production ends.

Responsible for the local casting, a special challenge because of the largely "unprofessional" character of the show, and the use of strictly local talent - there was no precasting whatsoever - who must be conversant in both languages, is Armand Coullet of Louisiana, who speaks francais.

Montreal version of Hair will pretty much carbon the productions in other cities where strict control is kept as to format from the New York hq.  two production staffs and two directors sent up from Gothom are responsible for the staging in every city, which means that the number of Hair productions are restricted because of the amount of time needed to open and supervise by the N.Y. crew and directors.

Now that Hair has become accepted as a pretty tame symbol of youthful liberation, there is little chance of any local problems.

Copyright Variety.

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