Last Chance to catch the Follies that came after Follies.
Huh? In other words, the first show at NJ's Paper Mill Playhouse following their smash revival of Stephen Sondheim's Follies is The Will Rogers Follies, 1991's best musical Tony winner. The show opened June 12 and concludes its scheduled run July 26. Previews began June 10.
This Follies takes a fanciful version of the life story of Rogers, one of America's most popular entertainer/comedians in the 1920s and '30s. Peter Stone wrote the book, Betty Comden & Adolph Green the lyrics, Cy Coleman the score for the show.
Rehearsals began in May for Will Rogers Follies, directed by Mark S. Hoebee and choreographed by D. J. Salisbury. Recently finished with the State Fair national tour, John Davidson plays the lead, with Ann Crumb (Anna Karenina, Aspects of Love) playing Betty Blake. Robert Fitch, the original Rooster in Annie, plays Clem (replacing the previously announced Dennis Kelly). The Madcap Mutts, who appeared on Broadway in the show, repeat their canine cavorting. Also in the cast are Pamela Jordan (Ziegfeld's Favorite), Lori Alexander, Stephanie Bishop, Vincent Paul Boyle, Janet Caine, Barry Cavanagh, Jennifer Clippinger, Jennifer Lee Crowl, Ashleigh Davidson, Mary Lee Dewitt, Paul Iacono, Jean Marie, Temle Kane, Louisa Kendrick, Krista Leopre, Frank X. Leusner, Blaine Mastalir, Shane Partlow, Mia Price, Tara Radcliffe, Ivy Risser, Casey Ross, Joseph Sark, Kevin Steele, Seth Swoboda, Yasuko Tamaki, Scott Wakefield and Jessica Waxman.
* Opening the 1998-99 season, Sept. 11, of New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse will be the Jule Styne & Stephen Sondheim classic, Gypsy, with a Mam Rose still yet to be announced, though Betty Buckley is moving closer and closer (as of July 24) to taking the role. Deborah Gibson has already been cast as Louise, while Laura Bundy (the little girl of Off-Broadway's Ruthless) will play dainty June.
According to spokesperson Jim Byk (of the Richard Kornberg office), rehearsals begin Aug. 20. Previews begin Sept. 9. The last major Gypsy revival was on Broadway with Tyne Daly.
Following Gypsy will be a new version (Nov.-Dec.) of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by David Levy & Leslie Eberhart (book & lyrics) with music by Phil Hall. Starring will be Richard White, Marc Kudisch (High Society), Glory Crampton (Off-Broadway's Carnival) and Judy McLane. This adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson thriller is not connected to the Frank Wildhorn currently at Broadway's Plymouth Theatre.
After that (tentatively) it's George S. Kaufman & Moss Hart's The Man Who Came To Dinner "with a star to be named very soon" says Paper Mill spokesperson Jim Byk (May 11). The comedy about a misery-inducing houseguest is by the same authors as Once In A Lifetime and You Can't Take It With You.
Then comes Charlotte Bronte's Wuthering Heights adapted for the stage by Paper Mill artistic director, Robert Johanson.
Then it's La Cage aux Folles, starring Lee Roy Reams as Albin. Robert Johanson directs. Harvey Fierstein wrote the book, and rumor has it composer Jerry Herman is "tinkering a bit" with La Cage for this engagement.
Announced to finish the season is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, though the current, Broadway-bound Osmond Brothers tour of the Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice musical will likely lead Paper Mill to do a different show instead.
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