New York City Rewards Follies Musical Excellence
Broadway Theatre goers in New York City first saw Follies in 1971. Steven Sondheim chose to author the musical score and production of Follies, in collaboration with writer James Goldman. The result was an insightful musical relating the woeful tale of former showgirls who had grown older, and in the case of Sally Durant, the main character, not managed to grow up.
Follies opened for more than 500 performances on Broadway, and stormed the Tony Awards the following year. Nominated for eleven gongs, Follies took away seven, including Best Score for composer Stephen Sondheim. The venue chosen to premier Follies, The Winter Garden, had some historical nostalgia of its own connected to the storyline. The renowned Ziegfeld Follies of the 1930s were staged there, and the Winter Garden held its own revue show during this time, known as the Greenwich Follies.
New York City Theatre Politics Show Underside of Fame
Sondheim's Follies had a much darker undercurrent than earlier era productions. Audiences in 1971 were cultured by Watergate, Nixon, the Kennedys, and the war in Vietnam, and a sharp, political, fervour, tainted the air. An article in the New York Times, featuring the tale of grown-up Ziegfeld Follies' showgirls, inspired Sondheim to create Follies as a back-stage musical polemic, exploring social and political issues.
This feminist approach to musical theatre, coincided with the publication of the seminal text, The Female Eunuch, by Germaine Greer, in 1970. Women's issues, and studies of sexual exploitation through objectification, were hot topics. Follies drew a cult following, drawn in perhaps, by the exploration of how a sexually objectified woman-showgirl - Sally Durant - still didn't end up 'making it'. Sally suffers neurosis, confused memories, alcoholism, mental disorder, and an obsession with her past fame. It wasn't exactly Oklahoma!
Follies Loses All Funding in 1972 but New York Rallies
The Winter Gardens lost the entire Follies budget of $800,000 by 1972, with the expensive set design and choreography proving too ambitious for theatrical accountants. New York City never forgot Follies, and in 1985 a star-studded cast recorded Follies in Concert at the Lincoln Centre, in homage to Sondheim's genius musical score.
Follies Revival Performances
The story of Follies had gained a foothold in New York's Broadway scene, with accomplished musical theatre actress Barbara Cook renowned for performing and interpreting Sondheim's work. Sondheim's inventive harmonies and talent for lyrics drew a theatrical in-crowd, who both admired, and sought to be involved with his productions. From 1985 onwards Follies continues to experience revival performances across the globe.
To synthesize the impact of Follies on New York City, a quote from minor character Stella Deems sums things up: "Who's that woman I know? I know that woman so clever but ever so sad. Love, she said, was a fad. The kind of love that she couldn't make fun of she'd have none of. Who's that woman? That cheery, weary, woman who's dressing for yet one more spree? Each day I see her pass in my looking glass. Lord! Lord! Lord! That woman is me!"
The message to the world from Follies NYC is that however strongly fame, fortune, and stardom draws us in, we mustn't confuse it with love.