The story of the musical, Follies, will be told from the perspective of one of the original production's "gofers," Theodore S. Chapin, in a new book to be published by Knopf in 2002.
Chapin, who would go on to be president of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, was a college student on leave from his junior year at Connecticut College when he began chronicling — for college credit — the backstage story of the Harold Prince directed Stephen Sondheim musical, in 1971.
On the day he arrived to observe the making of the haunting musical, he was made a production assistant. The book is based on Chapin's notebooks and other notes and research, chronicling a period between first rehearsal and opening night.
According to a statement from R&H, the characters in the book include Sondheim, librettist James Goldman, co-directors Prince and Michael Bennett, designers Boris Aronson, Tharon Musser and Florence Klotz, plus the original Broadway cast, including Alexis Smith, Dorothy Collins, Gene Nelson, John McMartin, Fifi D'Orsay, Yvonne De Carlo, Ethel Shutta, and many others.
The untitled book comes in the heels of the 2001 Roundabout Theatre Broadway revival of the show, which begins previews at the Belasco Theatre March 8. The word "legendary" always seems to be assigned to Follies, which concerns a reunion of show folk at a crumbling theatre set to be demolished. Former specialty performers, chorines and stage door Johnnies gather to drink a toast, reflect on their lives and sing some of their old material, only to feel the presence of their younger selves (played by younger performers as ghostly figures).
Conceptual and visual, the musical is a theatrical riff on deterioration, and its sheer ambition is part of the reason it's considered legendary. Revivals of the show usually feature aging legends — the Paper Mill Playhouse revival lured Ann Miller back to the stage, a Michigan Opera Theatre production had Juliet Prowse, and the new Broadway revival has Joan Roberts, of the original Oklahoma!