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On April 4, 1971, Follies opened at the Winter Garden Theater and received great reviews, with the exception of the New York Times, of course. Newsweek called it "Brilliant", and Time called it "Incredible". With a working title, The Girls Upstairs, Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman worked on this concept musical for five years before 1970's Company. Harold Prince and Michael Bennett directed and it's been said that Prince was inspired by a photograph in Life magazine showing Gloria Swanson in the ruins of the Roxy Theater during its demolition. For those of you not familiar with the show here is a summary taken from the Stephen Sondheim Stage:

"This musical, with a book by James Goldman, takes place at a reunion of the Weisman (pseudo-Ziegfeld) Follies girls, gathering at their old theater on the eve of its leveling to become a parking lot. When Sally tries to rekindle her old flame with Ben (who married her best friend from the old days, Phyllis), chaos ensues until Sally, Buddy (her husband), Ben, and Phyllis break down and acknowledge their follies in a dream-Follies sequence, "Loveland."

The entire show is interspersed with ex-showgirls reprising their old big numbers, and the atmosphere is heightened by the presence of the ghosts of everyone's former selves, who sometimes sing along, sometimes reenact important events, and sometimes even interact with the present. Follies contains two scores -- the Follies pastiche numbers and the book numbers. The convergence of the two scores results in the Loveland sequence, where the characters use traditional songs to comment on their current concerns. The final piece (in the original script) is "Live Laugh, Love" where Ben attempts to present the suave, man-about-town character, but is unable to continue the charade and breaks down as the chorus continues, highlighting the dichotomy between forms.

In 1987, Follies was reworked for the West End stage. This new production featured a completely new book and five new songs, replacing others which were cut.

Follies includes the songs "Too Many Mornings," "I'm Still Here," and "Losing My Mind." (end quote)

Even though Follies is considered a flop, financially, it is anything but a flop musical wise. The original run ran for 522 performances; won all kinds of awards, and still lost over $600,000. I saw Follies up in Boston, pre-Broadway. I was in the Navy then and I remember going to the USO and they gave me tickets. Ah, them were the good ol' days. Follies was one of my first Sondheim shows...been hooked ever since.

Papermill Playhouse is currently presenting another much anticipated revival with theater greats such as Ann Miller, Liliane Montevecchi, Phylis Newman, Eddie Bracken and Kay Ballard. The musical runs through May 31. Papermill is in New Jersey and is about 35 minutes from New York and the short ride will be well worth it for this brilliant and incredible musical. Christina D'Angelo will be paying a visit today and we'll have a review for you on Thursday. Paper Mill Playhouse can be reached at (973) 379-3636 for info and reservations.

There is some talk about PBS videotaping the Paper Mill production, but I wouldn't wait. Ticket prices are less than $40.00 so it's a bargain. It's just the airfare that's killin' me.

Tidbits: According to the Associated Press, spy novelist Frederick Forsyth is collaborating with Andrew Lloyd Webber on the sequel to "The Phantom of the Opera."

Speaking of Phantoms, it looks like Franc D'Ambrosia will be going into the Guinness Book of Records as of July 1 for playing the role the longest surpassing Davis Gaines and Rob Guest.

Dame Edna, who we told you about a few columns back, opened his/her show, Dame Edna - The Spectacle, on the West End and the critics had a field day. One even suggested that the Dame "seek an honourable retirement in a luxury twilight home." Thought only American critics could bite like that.

Hats off to InTheater magazine. The current issue that I received yesterday features a cover story on High Society. It's the black and white photography which makes this one of their best issues.

Guest columnists coming at you while I do some travelling. This Thursday, "Old Man" from our "All That Chat" forum will be writing his observations on The Fix, the Dana P. Rowe, John Dempsey musical currently playing in Washington (Arlington) at the Signature Theatre. Also coming up is Jill Hobgood's semi-annual column about theater on the web telling us what's new and interesting with all kinds of links. Jill's website, Theatrocopia, is considered one of the best resources on the web for theater.

Wanna' talk to others about this column or anything else theatre related? Check out All That Chat

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