Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman's Follies opened at the Winter Garden theatre on April 4, 1971. It ran for 15 months, closing on July 1, 1972. The musical was inspired after a New York Time article appeared that documented a reunion of former "Ziegfeld Follies" girls. For Follies, Sondheim was joined by producer/director Hal Prince and co-director/ choreographer Michael Bennett, all who had worked with Sondheim on Company the year before.
|Collins and Smith|
|John McMartin and Gene Nelson - waiting for their girl's upstairs.|
The original cast included Dorothy Collins and Gene Nelson as Sally and Buddy, Alexis Smith and John McMartin as Phyllis and Ben with Yvonne De Carolo as Carlotta, Mary McCarty as Stella, and Ethel Shutta as Hattie.
The show is chock full of Sondheim gems, including songs dropped during the Boston tryout like "Can that Boy Foxtrot" as well as songs written for later reworkings of the show like "Ah, But Underneath.". Other songs include "I'm Still Here," "Broadway Baby," and "Losing My Mind."
|The young "ghosts" of the two couples.|
Unfortunately the original broadway cast recording did not include the entire score and some of the songs, including "I'm Sill Here," were recorded as truncated versions in order for the recording to fit on one lp.
Follies is one of those shows that even though it had a fairly nice run of 522 performances it has been reworked and performed numerous times in hopes of fixing the few flaws. Like Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along, the score is rich with beautiful ballads, themes and comical songs, but just like Merrily, the book isn't quite at the same level of the score, Sondheim wrote several additional songs for subsequent productions (like the 1987 London premiere production) and Goldman has made various changes to the book. Subsequent productions and concert versions of this show have usually included "names" in the parts of Carlotta and Hattie, since those two ladies individually perform the two songs "I'm Still Here" and "Broadway Baby" that are definite crowd pleasures and have some of Sondheim's wittiest lyrics.
There have been numerous concert productions of the show, including one at New York City's Lincoln Center/Avery Fisher Hall in 1985, which was presented for two nights. This concerrt was recorded for both video and audio release, though the video unfortunately doesn't include all of the show but instead includes highlights from the two concerts as well as behind the scenes and rehearsal footage. The audio recording of the concert was the first to include the entire score though some of the songs are slightly different from what was performed in 1971. The concert starred Barbara Cook and Mandy Patinkin (right) as Sally and Buddy, George Hearn and Lee Remick as Ben and Phyllis and featured Carol Burnett as Carlotta and Elaine Stritch as Hattie.
|2001 Broadway revival poster|
In February 2007, New York City Center Encores (a series of musicals presented in semi staged concert productions) presented Follies as their 40th production. The cast included Donna Murphy and Victor Garber as Phyllis and Ben, Victoria Clark and Michael McGrath as Sally and Buddy with Christine Baranski as Carlotta, and also featured Anne Rogers, Jo Anne Worley and Philip Bosco. The original 1971 book and score were used and it was directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw. Murphy also sang "Could I Leave You?," which she performed at the Encores! production, at last year's Sondheim 80th Birthday celebration, available on DVD.
A somewhat star studded production is planned for this May and June at The Kennedy Center in D.C. Including Bernadette Peters and Dany Burstein as Sally and Buddy, Jan Maxwell and Ron Raines as Phyllis and Ben, Elaine Paige as Carlotta, and Linda Lavin as Hattie. Many are hopeful that if the reviews are good that this production will transfer to Broadway.
Dorothy Collins, left and below, singing "Losing My Mind" -
Yvonne De Carlo sings "I'm Still Here"
Barbara Cook sings "In Buddy's Eyes"
Dee Hoty sings "Could I Leave You?" -
Amazon link for Original Broadway Cast Recording - Follies (Highlights from the 1971 Original Broadway Cast)
Amazon link for Libretto - Follies (Playwrights Canada Press)
Amazon link for Follies in Concert dvd -Stephen Sondheim's Follies in Concert
Amazon link for Follies- Complete Paper Mill Playhouse recording cd - Follies - The Complete Recording (1998 New Jersey Cast)
Amazon link for making of Follies book - Everything Was Possible: The Birth of the Musical Follies (Applause Books)