Sondheim Follies Looking Fainter for B'way Transfer?

News   Sondheim Follies Looking Fainter for B'way Transfer?
Those holding their breath waiting for the Broadway transfer of NJ's Paper Mill Playhouse's smash mounting of Follies may want to take a few more gulps of air. The feeling seems to be building that despite adulatory reviews and strong audience interest, the show may not be restaged on the Great White Way after all.

Those holding their breath waiting for the Broadway transfer of NJ's Paper Mill Playhouse's smash mounting of Follies may want to take a few more gulps of air. The feeling seems to be building that despite adulatory reviews and strong audience interest, the show may not be restaged on the Great White Way after all.

Producer Roger Berlind has expressed serious interest in helping with the move, though his office told Playbill On-Line (June 17) the project did not look like it was moving forward. Since the show closed at Paper Mill May 31, regrouping the cast would be one extra difficulty for any remounting to overcome.

A spokesperson from the Richard Kornberg office was more optimistic. "There are several obstacles to overcome," the spokesperson said (June 17), "but that doesn't mean it's dead. A lot is riding on finding a theatre." Despite numerous recent closings and imminent closings of Broadway shows, an appropriate Broadway venue has yet to present itself.

Meanwhile, the cast album of Follies, though recorded by TVT Soundtrax June 1 and 2, has pushed back its release from July to early fall, according to a TVT spokesperson. The show was also was in talks with PBS to tape and broadcast the production, but Paper Mill spokesman Dennis Dougherty said May 28 the video version was 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. No producer or date for a Broadway production had been announced. 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 will produce 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 features 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.


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).


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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