Perhaps the most highly anticipated show of the Paper Mill Playhouse 60th anniversary season is a revival of Sondheim's Follies, which features Tony Roberts as Buddy and Hollywood legend Ann Miller as Carlotta.
For NJ press, the show opens April 24, but because of the crush of Broadway openings that week, they're holding New York critics for a different opening date, April 30. The production runs through May 31.
Paper Mill artistic director Robert Johanson directs the legendary Stephen Sondheim/James Goldman musical about veteran "Follies" stars and vaudevillians remembering their youth, and resolving conflicts of the heart that began back when they were chorus kids backstage. Jerry Mitchell ("Broadway Bares" and TV's Rosie O'Donnell Show) choreographs . Songs include "Losing My Mind," "In Buddy's Eyes," "Who's That Woman" and "The Girls Upstairs."
The show is in talks with PBS to tape and broadcast the production, but no agreement had been signed as of April 22, according to Paper Mill spokesman Dennis Dougherty.
Playbill On-Line got a Sneak Peek at Follies in rehearsal. Check out the story and photos. Tony Roberts, last on Broadway in Victor/Victoria, has a long list of NY credits, including Doubles and Jerome Robbins' Broadway, not to mention nearly every film comedy Woody Allen made in the 1970s.
Hollywood tap legend Ann Miller also had a late-career Broadway hit with Sugar Babies.
Phyllis Newman (Subways Are For Sleeping) plays Stella. Kaye Ballard will play Hattie. Ballard began her Broadway career in The Golden Apple and continued it with Funny Girl, Wonderful Town and She Stoops To Conquer.
Also set for the cast are Donna McKechnie (A Chorus Line) as Sally, Dee Hoty (The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public) as Phyllis, Donald Saddler & Natalie Mosco (as dance team Theodore & Emily Whitman), Laurence Guittard (as Benjamin), Michael Gruber (Young Ben), Lilliane Montevecchi (Nine) as Solange, and Eddie Bracken (as Dmitri Weissman).
Billy Hartung will play Young Buddy (Scott Wise had been mentioned for the role, but is in rehearsals for Fosse). Carol Skarimbas plays Heidi (the one who sings "One More Kiss.") Meredith Patterson will play Young Phyllis. Danette Holden plays young Sally. (Among others considered for roles but not participating are John Cullum and Faith Prince.)
An interesting sidenote for Sondheim fans: one change made for this Follies includes a condensing of characters. The dance team of Vincent & Vanessa has been cut, but their parts have been added to the Whitmans. Thus, the Whitmans still sing "Rain on the Roof" but will also dance "Bolero d'Amour," which used to be hoofed by V&V.
Designing Follies are Michael Anania (set), Gregg Barnes (costumes) and Mark Stanley (lighting). Jim Coleman and Tom Helm serve as musical directors.
Also on tap for Paper Mill:
THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES -- The 1991 Tony winner for best musical, the shows tells a fanciful version of the life story of Rogers, one of America's most popular entertainer/comedians. Peter Stone wrote the book, Betty Comden & Adolph Green the lyrics, Cy Coleman the score. (June 10-July 26).
Rehearsals begin in May for Will Rogers Follies. After he finishes with the State Fair national tour, John Davidson will play the lead, with Ann Crumb (Anna Karenina, Aspects of Love) playing Betty Blake. The Madcap Mutts, who appeared on Broadway in the show, will repeat their canine cavorting.
Robert Johanson is artistic director of the Paper Mill Playhouse, the official state theatre of New Jersey. Musicals previously revived at the Millburn theatre include South Pacific, Show Boat and Gigi; newer works include Chess, Phantom, Jane Eyre and Comfortable Shoes.
For tickets and information on Paper Mill Playhouse shows, call (973) 379-3636.
-- By David Lefkowitz