The Follies on Broadway
Follies Premiere on Broadway
On April 4, 1971, an original musical collaboration between Stephen Sondheim and Harold Prince hit the Winter Garden Theatre at 1634 Broadway. In true theatrical style, Follies premiered at an appropriate venue. The Winter Garden frequently hosted revues in the early 1930s known as The Greenwich Village Follies. Theatre owners, the Shuberts, acquired the rights to the Ziegfeld Follies in 1932, upon the death of creator Florenz Ziegfeld.
The Ziegfeld Follies inspired Sondheim to commission James Goldman to write the story of the Follies, with the musical action set in a crumbling theatre, named the Weismann's Theatre. This pastiche production enjoyed 522 Broadway performances, winning seven Tony Awards in 1972, including Best Original Score, Best Direction, Best Leading Actress, Best Choreography, Best Scenic Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Lighting Design.
Follies Performances since Broadway
Follies enjoyed extraordinary success considering its content was a story about showgirls. The synopsis described a world where old show business stars gather to visit their original theatre, and remember the world they once inhabited. Follies is at times a dreamscape, where characters escape into the "Loveland" set, and sing musical numbers from their days as performers. The musical uses flashbacks, as characters explore feelings of nostalgia for the past glory they experienced as famous showgirls. Their husbands, who met them when they were Follies stars, provide a dramatic vehicle to explore back stage romance and relationships.
An initial review by Times Broadway theatre critic Frank Rich, stated audiences at the original production were "baffled and restless". He predicted Follies would become a classic, as it explored what happens when stars of fame fall to earth. For theatre audiences in the 70s, used to comedy plots, Follies covered uncomfortable ground. Main character, former Weismann Follies star Sally Durant, provided much of the disturbance. Her belief that her stardom somehow entitled her to rival Phyllis's husband, and anything else she ever wanted, left a bitter taste with audiences. Follies raised the question as to whether a life of fame and fortune was desirable.
Since 1971 Follies has played in West End Theatre productions around America and the world:
1972 - The Muny in St Louis, Missouri, staged the original Follies musical, with Harold Prince directing. Only two cast members were changed from the original line-up, and this outdoors production had a reach of 11,000, per performance, during its one week run in the summer of '72. Follies received the New York Drama Critics' Award for Best Musical in 1972.
1973 to 1974 – A Stock Touring Production of Follies travelled New Jersey and the Playhouse on the Mall, during June 1973. Other performances were held at Nyack, New York, Storrowtown Theatre, Massachusetts, Parker Playhouse, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, (2 weeks in winter '73 to '74), and Westchester County Playhouse, in New York. Missouri actress Marion Marlowe played Carlotta Campion, replacing Lynn Barri. Marlowe rose to fame in a later stage production, The Sound of Music, where she played Baroness Elsa Shraeder, from 1959 to 1963.
1976 The Equity Library Theatre, run by Actors Equity, put on a production of Follies in the summer of '76. Considered a cutting edge theatre for the time, productions were chosen that represented struggling commercial artists.
1985 – Two Lincoln Centre Concerts in New York City, heralded the first of many Follies revival performances. Carlotta Campion, played by Carol Burnett, became the role many famous women would go on to covet. Carlotta's song "I'm still here" has been sung in many Hollywood and stage productions since this time. Famous performances include those by Dame Shirley Bassey, Dolores Gray, Lauren Bacall, Shirley MacLaine in Postcards From The Edge, and Eartha Kitt.
1985 – 1987 – Manchester's Wythenshawe Theatre staged the European Premiere of Follies in April 1985. The London Premier in 1987 came on the back of the first DVD recorded performance of Follies, titled "Follies in Concert". The strength of the song melodies, composed and written by Stephen Sondheim, attracted bigger names to the London Follies production, including Diana Rigg and Eartha Kitt. New songs written for this production include; Make the Most of Your Music, Social Dancing, Ah, But Underneath, and Country House.
1995 - Follies returns to the United States, with approximately fifty performances at Theatre Under The Stars in Texas, and Fifth Avenue Theatre in Seattle. The numbers performed were the same as the Broadway Production, without the London additions.
1998 - New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse stages a 45 night run, and makes Follies – The Complete Recording, which goes on sale in America, with mainly original production songs, and the inclusion of Ah, But Underneath.
Recent Follies Revival Performances Using Original Broadway Orchestration
2001 to 2013 – The 2001 Broadway Revival Shows began in March 2001 and ran for 117 performances in New York City Broadway theatres. Los Angeles ran Follies in 2002 for 11 performances at the Wadsworth Theatre. 32 performances followed in London's Royal Festival Hall that year, and The Landor Theatre in London ran another 32 performances in 2006, directed by Robert McWhir. In 2007 Follies was staged in New York City Centre for six performances at the Encores! Another New York run in 2011 saw the Kennedy Center performing the original Broadway production, with the Marquis Theatre running 151 performances through to 2012. This Broadway run continued to Los Angeles' Ah Manson Theatre, and then in 2013 to The Toulon Opera House in France.