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Did Michael Bennett Say This?
Posted by: pierce 03:46 am EST 02/07/19
In reply to: Bennett's original setting for "Story of Lucy and Jessie" was a minstrel show. - Delvino 08:13 pm EST 02/06/19

I don't see anything "minstrel" about the original "Lucy and Jessie" number in Follies; when used in reference to minstrel shows, it's defined as "an American form of entertainment developed in the early 19th century...that depicted people specifically of African descent." The use of white gloves by dancers in a musical number doesn't automatically translate as minstrel entertainment. For example, white gloves were used in Bob Fosse's Dancin' for "I Wanna Be A Dancin' Man," but they were used to produce a soft percussive sound; it had nothing to do with reproducing minstrel shows (I doubt the African American dancers in the company would have agreed to be a part of it if that had been the case). Nor does having an ensemble dance with their backs to the audience; in a number that showcases a star performer, sometimes a choreographer will do this so the performer's face is the ONLY face the audience will see - it's a way of showcasing the star so that nothing distracts from him/her. I saw the original production of Follies four times myself, and I never felt the Lucy and Jessie number suggested a minstrel show. I've also read numerous books about Michael Bennett, Hal Prince, Stephen Sondheim and the show itself, and I've never encountered anything that says the concept for "Lucy and Jessie" was intended to suggest a minstrel number or trope. However, if you can provide a source that does, I'd love to read it.

The published script for Follies lists "The Story of Lucy and Jessie" as taking place in "A Honky-Tonk In Loveland," but a honky-tonk is not necessarily a setting for minstrel shows; the term is usually applied to tawdry nightclubs or rowdy country-western bars.

Of course, one can debate whether white gloves in a Mickey Mouse cartoon suggested minstrel shows, but that has nothing to do with Phyllis Stone, Michael Bennett's staging for "Lucy and Jessie" or Follies.
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