The Road It Didn't Take: No B'way for Paper Mill Follies

News   The Road It Didn't Take: No B'way for Paper Mill Follies As reported by the NY Daily News and NY Post (July 8) and speculated on for several weeks, Paper Mill Playhouse's smash revival of Follies will not be coming to Broadway. The all-star cast would have made it an expensive proposition to begin with, and since the show closed at the NJ theatre May 31, regrouping the performers would have been one extra difficulty for any remounting to overcome.

As reported by the NY Daily News and NY Post (July 8) and speculated on for several weeks, Paper Mill Playhouse's smash revival of Follies will not be coming to Broadway. The all-star cast would have made it an expensive proposition to begin with, and since the show closed at the NJ theatre May 31, regrouping the performers would have been one extra difficulty for any remounting to overcome.

However, according to the Daily News (in an article confirmed by sources close to the production), the main factor in the Follies' collapse was the opinion of the wife of the librettist -- who controls her husband's interest in the show. Bobby Goldman, wife of author James, reportedly did not want the show to come to New York, despite repeated pleas from Paper Mill and a group of producers who had raised the needed $4 million for a commercial transfer.

Unnamed sources interviewed by the News gave various hypotheses for Goldman's refusal, one saying she was displeased with the production and was hoping for a different mounting at the Roundabout Theatre, another saying that husband James was the one unhappy with the Paper Mill version and was allowing his wife to "play the heavy."

Reached by the Daily News, Bobby Goldman reportedly refused to comment on her reasons for halting Follies, saying "these are private business decisions."

The Daily News did quote a couple of heavy-hearted cast-members, including Tony Roberts, who apparently said, "It is shocking and disgraceful that Mrs. Goldman...has the power to prevent this great show from coming to Broadway... The hopes and dreams of the entire company are dashed." Ann Miller was quoted as saying, "We had great reviews. All the money was in place. And then [Bobby Goldman] slammed the door on us. I don't know what would make her so cruel."

As for the composer, Stephen Sondheim, production spokesperson Jim Byk told Playbill On-Line (July 8), "All indications were that Sondheim wanted the show to transfer. He saw the show on more than one occasion and was at the CD recording session [June 1 & 2] and helped supervise it." When asked by the Daily News about the Follies situation, Sondheim refused comment.

Follies fans can take some comfort in the knowledge that TVT Soundtrax is expected to release the cast recording in early fall. The show was also in talks with PBS to tape and broadcast the production, but Paper Mill spokesman Dennis Dougherty said (May 28) the video version was also definitely shelved.

Ironically, the TVT spokesperson told Playbill On-Line (May 28) the record label held off release until somewhere between late August and mid October, in hopes of tying-in the CD release with a possible Broadway opening.

Production spokesman Jim Byk told Playbill On-Line the recording will include not just the full score as performed at Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ through May 31, but will include an appendix of songs cut from the show in its pre-Broadway tryouts, and songs added for subsequent productions.

Spokesperson Jim Byk said Robert Sher is producing the cast recording for TVT Soundtrax in 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?" and "The Right Girl."

The appendix will include "The Story of Lucy and Jessie," which isn't in the Paper Mill mounting, plus "Uptown and Downtown," "All Things Bright and Beautiful," "Pleasant Little Kingdom," and "Can That Boy Fox-Trot" (the song replaced by "I'm Still Here").

Paper Mill artistic director Robert Johanson directed this revival of 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. The all-star cast featured Tony Roberts as Buddy and Hollywood legend Ann Miller as Carlotta. Also in the cast: Donna McKechnie, Laurence Guittard, Dee Hoty, Liliane Montevecchi, Eddie Bracken, Kaye Ballard, Phyllis Newman, Donald Saddler and Natalie Mosco.

Jerry Mitchell ("Broadway Bares" and TV's Rosie O'Donnell Show) choreographs . Songs include "Losing My Mind," "In Buddy's Eyes," "Beautiful Girls" and "The Girls Upstairs."

TVT Soundtrax' first venture into cast recordings was the recently released 1776 revival. Hillary Knight, the noted logo designer (No No Nannette, Sugar Babies, Irene), 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) played Stella. Kaye Ballard played 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 were Tony Award-winner 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 played Young Buddy. Carol Skarimbas played Heidi (the one who sings "One More Kiss.") Meredith Patterson played Young Phyllis. Danette Holden was young Sally.

An interesting sidenote for Sondheim fans: one change made for this Follies included 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 sang "Rain on the Roof" but also danced "Bolero d'Amour," which used to be hoofed by V&V.

Designing Follies were Michael Anania (set), Gregg Barnes (costumes) and Mark Stanley (lighting). Jim Coleman and Tom Helm served as musical directors.

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Finishing the Paper Mill season, June 10-July 26, is The Will Rogers Follies, the 1991 Tony winner for best musical. It's 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.

Rehearsals began 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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Opening the 1998-99 season of New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse will be the Jule Styne & Stephen Sondheim classic, Gypsy, with a star soon to be announced. The last major Gypsy revival was on Broadway with Tyne Daly.

According to spokesperson Dennis Dougherty, Mark Waldrop co-writer and director of When Pigs Fly will direct Gypsy. He also staged Three of Hearts, with Faith Prince and Mary Rodgers, at Rainbow and Stars.

As of July 8, the top candidate for the NJ mounting continues to be Betty Buckley. "There's been some discussion," Buckley told Playbill On Line at the Tony Awards Nominees Brunch, held at Sardi's restaurant on May 13. The actress, who previously starred as Mama Rose in a 1992 production of Gypsy at the Southern Arizona Light Opera Company, is nominated for her work in last fall's Triumph of Love.

Weeks ago, Paper Mill spokesman Dennis Dougherty confirmed the theatre had been speaking with Buckley. He added that the company was in contact with several actresses concerning the Stephen Sondheim/Jule Styne classic, including Patti LuPone, star of the recently shuttered Broadway production of David Mamet's The Old Neighborhood. According to Jim Byk (of the Richard Kornberg office, which also represents Paper Mill), reached June 22, LuPone had another, non-theatre commitment that has taken her out of the running.

Adding fuel to Buckley's candidacy are reports that she'll be recording a two-disk set of Gypsy for JAY Records. Gypsy, tentatively scheduled to run at Paper Mill Sept. 9-Oct 25, features a set by resident designer Michael Anania. Deborah Gibson has been rumored for the role of Louise.

Following Gypsy will be a new version (Nov. 4-Dec. 13) 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. This adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson thriller is not connected to the Frank Wildhorn currently at Broadway's Plymouth Theatre. Philip Wm. McKinley directs.

After that (tentatively) it's (Jan. 6-Feb. 14, 1999) George S. Kaufman & Moss Hart's The Man Who Came To Dinner. 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. According to a Paper Mill spokesperson, the theatre has been waiting for a particular star to commit to Dinner, though the performer's recent illness may keep him out of the production, forcing Paper Mill to either cancel or recast.

Then comes (Feb. 24-Apr. 3, 1999) Charlotte Bronte's Wuthering Heights adapted for the stage by Paper Mill artistic director, Robert Johanson.

Then it's La Cage aux Folles (Apr. 14-May 30), 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. Jerry Mitchell (Paper Mill's Follies) is choreographing.

Announced to finish the season (June 9-July 18, 1999) is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The musical is still under consideration but may be scrapped, due to the current, Broadway-bound Osmond Brothers tour of the Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice musical.

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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