A clutch of Chicago veterans will be among performers trying to recreate the heyday of the lavish Broadway revue, when "Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert" presents its concert revival of Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 March 25-29 at City Center.
Karen Ziemba, Ruthie Henshall and Stephanie Pope, who have all portrayed merry murderesses in the Chicago revival, will sing and dance a score by Ira Gershwin (lyrics) and Vernon Duke (music) and performs sketches by Gershwin and David Freedman. Henshall plays roles created by Gertrude Niesen, Pope is in roles created by Josephine Baker and Ziemba plays one of a specialty trio (including Bob and Jim Walton) and is seen in sketches.
Director-adaptor Mark Waldrop's cast for Ziegfeld, a little-known show to contemporary audiences, also includes Christine Ebersole (in roles created by Eve Arden), Howard McGillin (in roles created by Rodney McLennan), Mary Testa (in roles created by Fannie Brice, including Baby Snooks), Peter Scolari (in roles created by Bob Hope), Stanley Bojarski and Kevin Chamberlin (as the sketch comics) and Jock Soto, Jenifer Ringer and Jonathan Sharp as the ballet soloists.
This is the first time in six seasons that "Encores!" has attempted to recreate a classic American musical revue. Although the impresario's name was attached to the show, another in a series of lavish entertainments meant to "glorify the American girl," Florenz Ziegfeld died in 1932. The 1936 edition was produced by Ziegfeld's widow, Billie Burke Ziegfeld (who played Glinda in "The Wizard of Oz" film in 1939). Original orchestrations by Hans Spialek, Robert Russell Bennett, Conrad Sallinger and Don Walker are being used.
Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 featured music by Duke and lyrics and sketches by Gershwin and David Freedman (a popular revue writer of the day) and served up a song that had a life beyond the show: "I Can't Get Started." Sets and costumes were by Vincente Minnelli and Raoul Pene du Bois. It marked the Broadway debut of ballet choreographer George Balanchine (his On Your Toes was also in 1936); and the "modern" dances were by Robert Alton. For the concert revival, Thommie Walsh is choreographer and Christopher Wheeldon is ballet choreographer.
The company also includes Timothy Breese, Stephen Campanella, Tony Capone, Nat Chandler, Dottie Earle, Angelo Fraboni, Jennifer Frankel, Will Gartshore, Aldrin Gonzalez, Peter Gregus, Jeffrey Hankinson, Jack Hayes, Amy Heggins, Chris Hoch, Pamela Jordan, Damon Kirsche, Aixa M. Rosario Medina, Wes Pope, Tamlyn Brooke Shusterman, Eric van Hoven, Rocker Verastique, Wendy Waring, Joseph Webster, Deborah Yeates and the Coffee Club Orchestra, conducted by Rob Fisher.
The 6 PM March 29 show, when best seats are available, is the annual City Center gala benefit. Show-only tickets are available.
Call (212) 581-1212 for information.
The "Encores!" season began Feb. 11-14 with a highly-praised staging of Babes in Arms and continues May 6-9 with the Jule Styne-Betty Comden-Adolph Green musical, Do Re Mi.
The popular series at City Center in New York City revisits neglected or seldom-revived musical theatre scores and scripts in a conceptual concert form, often with big-name stage talent. The current Broadway revival of Chicago began as an "Encores!" presentation. The 1997 slate included Strike Up the Band, Li'l Abner and Vanessa Williams in St. Louis Woman.
Do Re Mi from 1960 introduced "Make Someone Happy" to the world, sung by John Reardon and Nancy Dussault, who played sub-plot lovers in the show business satire (about the record industry). Stars Phil Silvers and Nancy Walker played a low-rung showbiz schlemiel and his long su Äwife.
Also in the score are "It's Legitimate," "I Know About Love," "Fireworks" and "Adventure," a tour-de-force for Walker. In one number, a classic Comden-Green nightclub scene, Dussault was dressed as an animal, singing, "What's New At the Zoo."
-- By Kenneth Jones