Saturday, March 20, 2021

Everything Was Possible: The Birth of the Musical Follies ... a review

Follies is, if not my absolute favorite, in the top 3 of my favorite musical theatre pieces. I saw the original production on Broadway four times. I've seen the 2001 and 2011 Broadway revivals, and quite a number of regional productions. To say I'm a tad obsessed with it would not be an overstatement. So, when I found out about this book which I never knew existed, I couldn't wait to get it and dive in. It was really everything I could have hope for it to be. It's basically a rewritten form of the detailed and exacting journal kept by Ted Chapin, the 20 year old Production Assistant (the 'gofer') of the original production from before the rehearsals started through the out-of-town Boston try-out and the Broadway previews and opening night.

If you like musical theatre, this is a must-read book. There is always talk about how much changes between starting the rehearsals for a new show and the finalized production of opening night. This book exhibits just how that happens. With the boxloads of thrown out materials (scripts, songs, scoring, characters) and re-choreography after painstaking rehearsals to learn a number and new staging and direction and lines for scenes that were presumes 'set.' Changes (which are expensive) to the sets and costumes. Changes (which are emotional) to the casting). Although this book is specifically about the production of Follies, you needn't be familiar - or even like - the piece to get a heck of a lot from this book. It is a behind-the-scenes look at the process of theatre geniuses (and what else can you call Stephen Sondheim, Hal Prince and Michael Bennett?) doing what they do better than anybody else.

If you have no interest in the musical theatre, this book is not going to hold anything for you at all. But, if you love theatre - especially musical theatre - this is one terrific book to read. I tried to read it slowly so I could bask in the reflected talent I was reading about. But, I found it impossible to put down and in two evenings I finished it. It's a very easy book to read - Chapin, the author/narrator, is quite personable and makes the arduous and treacherous journey to Broadway magic enjoyable and educational. I know it's very rare for me to ever give a book 5 ☆☆☆☆☆, as I consider a 5 a close-to-perfect book. And I certainly can't compare this book to Don Quixote or Anna Karenina or Beloved or To Kill a Mockingbird as far as literature; however, it totally succeeds at the goals it has set for itself. I recommend it without reservation.

If you'd like to read more about the Broadway production of Follies,
click HERE to read about it on Broadway Gold.

Thanks for stopping by!

¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´) Tristan

Dorothy Collins and John McMartin
as Sally and Ben singing "In Buddy's Eyes"

Dorothy Collins and John McMartin
as Sally and Ben singing "Too Many Mornings"

Michael Bartlett as Roscoe
"Beautiful Girls"

Kurt Peterson as Young Ben, Michael Bartlett as Roscoe, Gene Nelson
as Buddy, Arnold Moss as Dimitri Weissman, and John McMartin as Ben

John McMartin as Ben and the Loveland company
singing "Live Laugh Love"

The Loveland showgirls
The 6'7"-in-heels head showgirl in the Loveland sequence
Yvonne deCarlo as Carlotta and the cast
Alexis Smith as Phyllis in "Beautiful Girls" parade
Alex Smith as Phyllis, John McMartin as Ben,
Dorothy Collins as Sally and Gene Nelson as Buddy

Yvonne de Carlo as Carlotta, Alexis Smith as Phyllis and
Michael Bartlett as Roscoe with the cast in "Beautiful Girls"

The Loveland sequence company
Ethel Shutta as Hattie singing "Broadway Baby"
Yvonne deCarlo in "Who's That Woman"
Alexis Smith as Phyllis singing "The Ballad of Lucy and Jessie"
surrounded by the Loveland showgirls