May 25 Hair cast reunion at Sing! Festival. Pic: Ben Cousins, Social Image
May 25 Hair cast reunion at Sing! Festival. Pic: Ben Cousins, Social Image

SING! Festival Reunites Hair Cast Members

An historic ensemble!

Thursday evening at Jane Mallett Theatre in Toronto, organizers of the Sing! Toronto Vocal Arts Festival created a moment in history, assembling  11  of the 29 original cast members from the tribal love-rock musical Hair for the first time to perform a cappella three songs from the celebrated show that ran at the Royal Alexandra Theatre from December 29, 1969, through January 3, 1971.

Composed by Montrealer Galt MacDermot, this Age of Aquarius musical had its start in 1967 when Gerome Ragni and James Rado walked into the New York office of record producer Nat Shapiro.

They carried a battered 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 of the lyrics and script for Hair.  

The coda was one of love, peace and protection of the environment, set against a newsreel of protests against the Viet Nam war that was tearing America apart at the seams and about to end in an inglorious withdrawal from the divided country.

Their first concern was finding a suitable composer. Shapiro, inspired by their creative effort, introduced them to MacDermot, then living in Staten Island with four children. He took to the concept immediately and, according to legend, within 36 hours he had completed six songs, and within four days the show had been completed and was ready for a producer.

The Jane Mallett production —billed as “O Canada! The Golden Age of Canadian Pop — featured a cappella ensemble Retrocity, Lorraine Segato, who delivered a show-stopping performance, as did Elaine Overholt, vocal coach to the stars. Her extraordinary career earned her special honour with the Slaight Music Sing! Legacy Award, presented by Slaight Music President, Derrick Ross.

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