Playbill's Filichia & Follies McKechnie Offer Sondheim Symposium

News   Playbill's Filichia & Follies McKechnie Offer Sondheim Symposium In conjunction with the Paper Mill Playhouse's hit mounting of Stephen Sondheim's Follies, the theatre company will offer a free, open to the public symposium on the composer, "The Music of Stephen Sondheim."

In conjunction with the Paper Mill Playhouse's hit mounting of Stephen Sondheim's Follies, the theatre company will offer a free, open to the public symposium on the composer, "The Music of Stephen Sondheim."

Playbill and Playbill On-Line columnist Peter Filichia hosts the event, May 12 (7:30 PM EST), and he'll be joined by Paper Mill artistic director Robert Johanson, resident composer Albert Evans, and Follies star Donna McKechnie. Songs from Follies will be performed by members of the company.

For information on the symposium call (973) 376-4343.

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Perhaps the most highly anticipated show of the Paper Mill Playhouse 60th anniversary season is the current revival of Follies, which features Tony Roberts as Buddy and Hollywood legend Ann Miller as Carlotta. For NJ press, the show opened Apr. 24, but because of the crush of Broadway openings that week, New York critics were given a different opening date, Apr. 30. The production runs through May 31. Rave reviews have led to serious talk of a Broadway transfer, especially since the show can't extend at Paper Mill because Will Rogers Follies is booked to follow.

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 Apr. 22, according to Paper Mill spokesman Dennis Dougherty.

Spokesperson Jim Byk says (May 11) Robert Sher will produce the cast recording for TVT Records, a two-disk set, featuring all the music from this production, including the never-recorded "Bolero d'Amour" and all the dance music for "Who's That Woman?" Recording begins June 1-2 at Edison studios for release late August. In addition to all the songs in the production, there'll be an appendix of songs cut in Philadephia and Boston, as well as "The Story of Lucy and Jessie," which isn't in the Paper Mill mounting. Rare, fully-orchestrated tunes on the disk will include "Uptown and Downtown," "Pleasant Little Kingdom," "Can That Boy Fox-Trot" (the song replaced by "I'm Still Here").

TVT Records' first venture into cast recordings was the recently released 1776 revival. Hillary Knight, the noted logo designer (No No Nannette), will do the CD album cover for Follies.

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 in 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 plays 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.

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Also on tap for Paper Mill this season:
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, opening June 12).

Rehearsals begin in May for Will Rogers Follies, directed by Mark S. Hoebee and choreographed by D. J. Salisbury. Just finished with the State Fair national tour, John Davidson plays 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. Also in the cast are Pamela Jordan (Ziegfeld's Favorite) and Dennis Kelly (Clem).

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Next season at Paper Mill will open with Gypsy, with a star to be announced. Following Gypsy will be a new version (Nov.-Dec.) of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by David Levy & Leslie Eberhard (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.

After that it's Kaufman & Hart's The Man Who Came To Dinner with a star to be named very soon" says spokesperson Byk (May 11)

Then comes Wuthering Heights adapted by Robert Johanson.

Then La Cage aux Folles, starring Lee Roy Reams as Albin. Robert Johanson directs. 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 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

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