Originally entitled The Girls Upstairs, Follies is set in a crumbling Broadway theatre scheduled for demolition, during a reunion for all the past members of the "Weismann's Follies," a musical revue (based on the Ziegfeld Follies) which played in that theatre between the World Wars. The musical focuses on two couples, Buddy and Sally Durant Plummer and Ben and Phyllis Rogers Stone, who are attending the reunion. Sally and Phyllis were both showgirls in the Follies as were many of the other guests. Both marriages are having problems. Buddy, a traveling salesman, is having an affair with a girl on the road; Sally is still as much in love with Ben as she was years ago; and Ben is so self-absorbed that Phyllis feels emotionally abandoned. Ben, in the meantime, has insecurities of his own.Synopsis complet
The two couples interact with each other and other partygoers. Throughout the first half, musical numbers from the old Follies are performed by the characters, sometimes accompanied by the ghosts of their former selves. Most of the songs are pastiches of songs by popular songwriters of the past. Losing My Mind is in the style of a George Gershwin ballad, The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues is in the style of Cole Porter and Loveland is akin to a 1920s Ziegfeld Follies serenade. The last section of the show features a string of subversive vaudeville-style numbers reflecting the leading characters' emotional troubles before returning to the theatre for the end of the reunion party.
Original Version  Broadway
London Version  West End premiere
Paper Mill Version  Paper Mill Playhouse
Roundabout Version  prepared for the 2001 revival
Encores! Version 
Broadway Revival Version  Broadway/Kennedy Center
Follies had its pre-Broadway tryout at the Colonial Theatre, Boston, from February 20 through March 20, 1971.
Follies premiered on Broadway on April 4, 1971 at the Winter Garden Theatre. It was directed by Harold Prince and Michael Bennett, with choreography by Bennett, scenic design by Boris Aronson, costumes by Florence Klotz, and lighting by Tharon Musser. It starred Alexis Smith (Phyllis), John McMartin (Ben), Dorothy Collins (Sally), Gene Nelson (Buddy), along with several veterans of the Broadway and vaudeville stage. The supporting role of Carlotta was created by Yvonne De Carlo, and usually is given to a well-known veteran performer who can belt out a song. Other notable performers in the original productions were: Fifi D'Orsay as Solange LaFitte, Justine Johnston as Heidi Schiller, Mary McCarty as Stella Deems, Arnold Moss as Dimitri Weismann, Ethel Shutta as Hattie Walker, and Marcie Stringer and Charles Welch as Emily and Theodore Whitman.
The show closed on July 1, 1972 after 522 performances and 12 previews. According to Variety Magazine, the production was a "total financial failure, with a cumulative loss of $792,000." Prince planned to present the musical on the West Coast and then on a national tour. However, the show did not do well in its Los Angeles engagement and plans for a tour ended.
Frank Rich, for many years the chief drama critic for The New York Times, had first garnered attention, while an undergraduate at Harvard University, with a lengthy essay for the Harvard Crimson about the show, which he had seen during its pre-Broadway run in Boston. He predicted that the show eventually would achieve recognition as a Broadway classic. Rich later wrote that audiences at the original production were baffled and restless.
For commercial reasons, the cast album was cut from two LPs to one early in production. Most songs were therefore heavily abridged and several were left entirely unrecorded. According to Craig Zadan, "It's generally felt that ... Prince made a mistake by giving the recording rights of Follies to Capitol Records, which in order to squeeze the unusually long score onto one disc, mutilated the songs by condensing some and omitting others." Chapin confirms this: "Alas ... final word came from Capitol that they would not go for two records.... [Dick Jones] now had to propose cuts throughout the score in consultation with Steve." "One More Kiss" was omitted from the final release but was restored for CD release. Chapin relates that "there was one song that Dick Jones [producer of the cast album] didn't want to include on the album but which Steve Sondheim most definitely did. The song was "One More Kiss", and the compromise was that if there was time, it would be recorded, even if Jones couldn't promise it would end up on the album. (It did get recorded but didn't make its way onto the album until the CD reissue years later.)"
1972 Los Angeles
The musical was produced at The Muny, St. Louis, Missouri in July 1972 and then transferred to the Shubert Theatre, Century City, California, running from July 22, 1972 through October 1, 1972. It was directed by Prince and starred Dorothy Collins (Sally; replaced by Janet Blair), Alexis Smith (Phyllis), John McMartin (Ben; replaced by Edward Winter), Gene Nelson (Buddy), and Yvonne De Carlo (Carlotta) reprising their original roles. The production was the premiere attraction at the newly constructed 1,800-seat theatre, which, ironically, was itself razed thirty years later (in 2002, in order to build a new office building), thus mirroring the Follies plot line upon which the musical is based.
1985 Wythenshawe and Lincoln Center
A full production ran at the Forum Theatre, Wythenshawe, England, from 30 April 1985, directed by Howard Lloyd-Lewis, design by Chris Kinman, costumes by Charles Cusick-Smith, lighting by Tim Wratten, musical direction by Simon Lowe, and choreographed by Paul Kerryson. The cast included Mary Millar (Sally Durant Plummer), Liz Izen (Young Sally), Meg Johnson (Stella Deems), Les Want (Max Deems), Betty Benfield (Heidi Schiller), Joseph Powell (Roscoe), Chili Bouchier (Hattie Walker), Shirley Greenwood (Emily Whitman), Bryan Burdon (Theodore Whitman), Monica Dell (Solange LaFitte), Jeannie Harris (Carlotta Campion), Josephine Blake (Phyllis Rogers Stone), Kevin Colson (Ben), Debbie Snook (Young Phyllis), Stephen Hale (Young Ben), Bill Bradley (Buddy Plummer), Paul Burton (Young Buddy), David Scase (Dimitri Weismann), Lorraine Croft (Young Stella), and Meryl Richardson (Young Heidi).
A staged concert at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, was performed on September 6 and 7, 1985. The concert starred Barbara Cook (Sally), George Hearn (Ben), Mandy Patinkin (Buddy), and Lee Remick (Phyllis), and featured Carol Burnett (Carlotta), Betty Comden (Emily), Adolph Green (Theodore), Liliane Montevecchi (Solange LaFitte), Elaine Stritch (Hattie Walker), Phyllis Newman (Stella Deems), Jim Walton (Young Buddy), Howard McGillin (Young Ben), Liz Callaway (Young Sally), Daisy Prince (Young Phyllis), Andre Gregory (Dmitri), Arthur Rubin (Roscoe), and Licia Albanese (Heidi Schiller). Rich, in his review, noted that "As performed at Avery Fisher Hall, the score emerged as an original whole, in which the 'modern' music and mock vintage tunes constantly comment on each other, much as the script's action unfolds simultaneously in 1971 (the year of the reunion) and 1941 (the year the Follies disbanded)."
Among the reasons the concert was staged was to provide an opportunity to record the entire score. The resulting album was more complete than the original cast album. However, director Herbert Ross took some liberties in adapting the book and score for the concert format—dance music was changed, songs were given false endings, new dialogue was spoken, reprises were added, and Patinkin was allowed to sing "The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues" as a solo instead of a trio with two chorus girls. Portions of the concert were seen by audiences worldwide in the televised documentary about the making of the concert, also released on videotape and DVD, of 'Follies' in Concert.
1987 West End
The musical played in the West End at the Shaftesbury Theatre on July 21, 1987 and closed on February 4, 1989 after 644 performances. The producer was Cameron Mackintosh, direction was by Mike Ockrent, with choreography by Bob Avian and design by Maria Bjornson. The cast featured Diana Rigg (Phyllis), Daniel Massey (Ben), Julia McKenzie (Sally), David Healy (Buddy), Lynda Baron, Leonard Sachs, Maria Charles, Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson. Dolores Gray was praised as Carlotta. During the run, Eartha Kitt replaced Gray, sparking somewhat of a comeback (she went on to perform her own one woman show at The Shaftesbury Theatre to sell-out houses for three weeks from 18 March 1989 after "Follies" closed). Other cast replacements included Millicent Martin as Phyllis. Julia McKenzie returned to the production for the final four performances.
The book "was extensively reworked by James Goldman, with Sondheim's cooperation and also given an intermission." The producer Cameron Mackintosh did not like "that there was no change in the characters from beginning to end.... In the London production ... the characters come to understand each other." Sondheim "did not think the London script was as good as the original." However, he thought that it was "wonderful" that, at the end of the first act, "the principal characters recognized their younger selves and were able to acknowledge them throughout the last thirty minutes of the piece." Sondheim wrote four new songs: "Country House" (replacing "The Road You Didn't Take"), "Loveland" (replacing the song of the same title), "Ah, But Underneath" (replacing "The Story of Lucy and Jessie", for the non-dancer Diana Rigg), and "Make the Most of Your Music" (replacing "Live, Laugh, Love").
Critics who had seen the production in New York (such as Frank Rich) found it substantially more "upbeat" and lacking in the atmosphere it had originally possessed. According to the Associated Press (AP) reviewer, "A revised version of the Broadway hit "Follies" received a standing ovation from its opening-night audience and raves from British critics, who said the show was worth a 16-year wait." The AP quoted Michael Convey of The Financial Times, who wrote: "'Follies' is a great deal more than a camp love-in for old burlesque buffs and Sondheim aficionados." The New York Times critic wrote: "The initial critics' reviews ranged from unqualified raves to some doubts whether the reworked book of James Goldman is up to the inventiveness of Sondheim's songs. 'A truly fantastic evening,' The Financial Times concluded, while The London Daily News said, 'The musical is inspired,' and The Times described the evening as 'a wonderful idea for a show which has failed to grow into a story.'" He further commented: "In part, the show is a tribute to musical stage history, in which the 57-year-old Mr. Sondheim is steeped, for he first learned song writing at the knee of Oscar Hammerstein II and became the acknowledged master songwriter who bridged past musical stage romance into the modern musical era of irony and neurosis. Follies is a blend of both, and the new production is rounded out with production numbers celebrating love's simple hope for young lovers, its extravagant fantasies for Ziegfeld aficionados, and its fresh lesson for the graying principals."
This production was also recorded on two CDs and was the first full recording.
Follies was voted ninth in a BBC Radio 2 listener poll of the UK's "Nation's Number One Essential Musicals."
U.S. regional productions
Michigan Opera Theatre (MOT) was the first major American opera company to present Follies as part of their main stage repertoire, running from October 21, 1988 through November 6. The MOT production starred Nancy Dussault (Sally), John-Charles Kelly (Buddy), Juliet Prowse (Phyllis) and Ron Raines (Ben), Edie Adams (Carlotta), Thelma Lee (Hattie), and Dennis Grimaldi (Vincent).
A production also ran from March to April 1995 at the Theatre Under the Stars, Houston, Texas and in April to May 1995 at the 5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle with Constance Towers (Phyllis), Judy Kaye (Sally), Edie Adams, Denise Darcel, Virginia Mayo and Karen Morrow (Carlotta). The 1998 Paper Mill Playhouse production (Millburn, New Jersey) was directed by Robert Johanson with choreography by Jerry Mitchell and starred Donna McKechnie (Sally), Dee Hoty (Phyllis), Laurence Guittard (Ben), Tony Roberts (Buddy), Kaye Ballard (Hattie ), Eddie Bracken (Weismann), and Ann Miller (Carlotta). Phyllis Newman and Liliane Montevecchi reprised the roles they played in the Lincoln Center production. "Ah, But Underneath" was substituted for "The Story of Lucy and Jessie" in order to accommodate non-dancer Hoty. This production received a full-length recording on two CDs, including not only the entire score as originally written, but a lengthy appendix of songs cut from the original production in tryouts.
Julianne Boyd directed a fully staged version of Follies in 2005 by the Barrington Stage Company (Massachusetts) in June–July 2005. Principal cast included Kim Crosby (Sally), Leslie Denniston (Phyllis), Jeff McCarthy (Ben), Lara Teeter (Buddy), Joy Franz (Solange), Marni Nixon (Heidi), and Donna McKechnie (Carlotta). Stephen Sondheim attended one of the performances.
1996 and 1998 concerts
The Dublin Concert was held in May 1996 at the National Concert Hall. The cast included Lorna Luft, Millicent Martin, Mary Millar Dave Willetts, Alex Sharpe, Christine Scarry, Aidan Conway and Enda Markey.
A concert was held at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, on December 8, 1996, and broadcast on BBC Radio 2 on February 15, 1997. The cast starred Julia McKenzie (Sally), Donna McKechnie (Phyllis), Denis Quilley (Ben) and Ron Moody (Buddy). This show recreated the original Broadway score.
Follies was performed in concert at the Sydney Opera House with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in February 1998 as the highlight of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and had three performances. It followed a similar presentation at the 1995 Melbourne Festival of Arts. The show starred Toni Lamond (Sally), Jill Perryman, Judi Connelli, Terence Donovan, Ron Haddrick, Todd McKenney, and Leonie Page.
2001 Broadway revival
A Broadway revival opened at the Belasco Theatre on April 5, 2001 and closed on July 14, 2001 after 117 performances and 32 previews. This Roundabout Theatre limited engagement had been expected to close on September 30, 2001. Directed by Matthew Warchus with choreography by Kathleen Marshall, it starred Blythe Danner (Phyllis), Judith Ivey (Sally), Treat Williams (Buddy), Gregory Harrison (Ben), Marge Champion, Polly Bergen (Carlotta), Joan Roberts (the original Laurey from the original Broadway production of Oklahoma!; later replaced by Marni Nixon), Larry Raiken (Roscoe) and an assortment of famous names from the past. Former MGM and onetime Broadway star Betty Garrett, best-known to younger audiences for her television work, played Hattie. It was significantly stripped down (earlier productions had featured extravagant sets and costumes) and was not a success critically.
According to an article in The Hollywood Reporter, "almost every performance of the show played to a full house, more often than not to standing-room-only. Tickets always were tough to come by. The reason the final curtain came down Saturday was because, being a production by the Roundabout Theatre Company – a subscription-based 'not-for-profit' theater company – it was presented under special Equity terms, with its actors paid a minimal fee. To extend the show, it would have been necessary to negotiate new contracts with the entire company ... because of the Belasco's limited seating, it wasn't deemed financially feasible to do so."
Theatre writer and historian John Kenrick wrote, "the bad news is that this Follies is a dramatic and conceptual failure. The good news is that it also features some of the most exciting musical moments Broadway has seen in several seasons. Since you don't get those moments from the production, the book or the leads, that leaves the featured ensemble, and in Follies that amounts to a small army. ... Marge Champion and Donald Saddler are endearing as the old hoofers. ... I dare you not to fall in love with Betty Garrett's understated "Broadway Baby" – you just want to pick her up and hug her. Polly Bergen stops everything cold with "I’m Still Here," bringing a rare degree of introspection to a song that is too often a mere belt-fest.... [T]he emotional highpoint comes when Joan Roberts sings 'One More Kiss'."
2002 London revival
A production was mounted at London's Royal Festival Hall in a limited engagement. After previews from August 3, 2002, it opened officially on August 6, and closed on August 31, 2002. Paul Kerryson directed, and the cast starred David Durham as Ben, Kathryn Evans as Sally, Louise Gold as Phyllis, Julia Goss as Heidi and Henry Goodman as Buddy. Variety singer and performer Joan Savage sang "Broadway Baby". This production featured the original Broadway score.
2002 Los Angeles
Follies was part of L.A.'s Reprise series, and it was housed at the Wadsworth Theatre, presented as a staged concert, running from June 15 to June 23, 2002. The production was directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman, set design by Ray Klausen, lighting design by Tom Ruzika, costumes by Randy Gardell, sound design by Philip G. Allen, choreography by Kay Cole, musical director Gerald Sternbach.
The production starred Bob Gunton (Ben), Warren Berlinger (Dimitri Weismann), Patty Duke (Phyllis), Vikki Carr (Sally), Harry Groener (Buddy), Carole Cook (Hattie), Carol Lawrence (Vanessa), Ken Page (Roscoe), Liz Torres (Stella), Amanda McBroom (Solange), Grover Dale (Vincent), Donna McKechnie (Carlotta), Carole Swarbrick (Christine), Stella Stevens (Dee Dee), Mary Jo Catlett (Emily), Justine Johnston (Heidi), Jean Louisa Kelly (Young Sally), Austin Miller (Young Buddy), Tia Riebling (Young Phyllis), Kevin Earley (Young Ben), Abby Feldman (Young Stella), Barbara Chiofalo (Young Heidi), Trevor Brackney (Young Vincent), Melissa Driscoll (Young Vanessa), Stephen Reed (Kevin),and Billy Barnes (Theodore). Hal Linden was originally going to play Ben, but left because he was cast in the Broadway revival of Cabaret as Herr Schultz. Tom Bosley was also originally cast as Dimitri Weismann.
2007 New York City Center Encores!
New York City Center's Encores! "Great American Musicals in Concert" series featured Follies as its 40th production for six performances in February 2007 in a sold out semi-staged concert. The cast starred Donna Murphy (Phyllis), Victoria Clark (Sally), Victor Garber (Ben) and Michael McGrath (Buddy). Christine Baranski played Carlotta, and Lucine Amara sang Heidi. The cast also included Anne Rogers, Jo Anne Worley and Philip Bosco. The director and choreographer was Casey Nicholaw. This production used the original text and the "Loveland" lyrics performed in the 1987 London production.
2011 Kennedy Center and Broadway
The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts production at the Eisenhower Theatre started previews on May 7, 2011, with an official opening on May 21, and closed on June 19, 2011. The cast starred Bernadette Peters as Sally, Jan Maxwell as Phyllis, Elaine Paige as Carlotta, Linda Lavin as Hattie, Ron Raines as Ben and Danny Burstein as Buddy. The production was directed by Eric Schaeffer, with choreography by Warren Carlyle, costumes by Gregg Barnes, set by Derek McLane and lighting by Natasha Katz. Also featured were Rosalind Elias as Heidi, Régine as Solange, Susan Watson as Emily, and Terri White as Stella. The budget was reported to be $7.3 million. The production played to 95% capacity.
Reviews were mixed, with Ben Brantley of The New York Times writing, "It wasn't until the second act that I fell in love all over again with Follies". Peter Marks of The Washington Post wrote that the revival "takes an audience halfway to paradise." He praised a "broodingly luminous Jan Maxwell" and Burstein's "hapless onetime stage-door Johnny", as well as "the show's final 20 minutes, when we ascend with the main characters into an ironic vaudeville dreamscape of assorted neuroses - the most intoxicating articulation of the musical's 'Loveland' sequence that I've ever seen." Variety gave a very favorable review to the "lavish and entirely satisfying production", saying that Schaeffer directs "in methodical fashion, building progressively to a crescendo exactly as Sondheim does with so many of his stirring melodies. Several show-stopping routines are provided by choreographer Warren Carlyle." Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal noted that "One of the signal achievements of this 'Follies' is that it succeeds in untangling each and every strand of the show's knotty plot... Mr. Schaeffer is clearly unafraid of the darkness of 'Follies', so much so that the first act is bitter enough to sting. Yet he and Warren Carlyle ... just as clearly revel in the richness of the knowing pastiche songs with which Mr. Sondheim evokes the popular music of the prerock era."
The production transferred to Broadway at the Marquis Theatre in a limited engagement starting previews on August 7, 2011, with the official opening on September 12, and closing on January 22, 2012 after 151 performances and 38 previews. The four principal performers reprised their roles, as well as Paige as Carlotta. Jayne Houdyshell as Hattie, Mary Beth Peil as Solange LaFitte, and Don Correia as Theodore joined the Broadway cast. A two-disc cast album of this production was recorded by PS Classics and was released on November 29, 2011.
Brantley reviewed the Broadway revival for The New York Times, writing: "Somewhere along the road from Washington to Broadway, the Kennedy Center production of 'Follies' picked up a pulse. ... I am happy to report that since then, Ms. Peters has connected with her inner frump, Mr. Raines has found the brittle skeleton within his solid flesh, and Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Burstein have only improved. Two new additions to the cast, Jayne Houdyshell and Mary Beth Peil, are terrific. This production has taken on the glint of crystalline sharpness." The production's run was extended, and its grosses exceeded expectations, but it did not recoup its investment.
The Broadway production won the Drama League Award, Distinguished Production of a Musical Revival for 2011-12 and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival of a Musical, Outstanding Actor in a Musical (Burstein) and Outstanding Costume Design (Barnes). Out of seven Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical, it won only one, for Barnes' costumes.
2012 Los Angeles
The 2011 Broadway and Kennedy Center production transferred to the Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles, California, in a limited engagement, from May 3, 2012 through June 9. The majority of the Broadway cast reprised their roles, with the exception of Bernadette Peters, who had prior concert commitments and was replaced by Victoria Clark in the role of Sally, a role she has previously played in New York. Other new cast members included Carol Neblett as Heidi, Sammy Williams as Theodore and Obba Babatunde as Max.
2012-2013 Toulon Opera House (France)
For its first production in France, Follies is scheduled to be presented in the Toulon Opera House during the 2012–2013 season. This English-language production will be directed by Olivier Bénézech. The cast will feature: Charlotte Page (Sally), Liz Robertson (Phyllis), Graham Bickley (Ben), Jérôme Pradon (Buddy), Nicole Croisille (Carlotta) and Julia Sutton (Hattie)
"Prologue" – Orchestra
"Overture" – Orchestra
"Beautiful Girls" – Roscoe and Company
"Don't Look at Me" – Sally and Ben
"Waiting for the Girls Upstairs" – Ben, Sally, Phyllis and Buddy, Young Ben, Young Sally, Young Phyllis and Young Buddy
"Montage" ("Rain on the Roof"/"Ah, Paris!"/"Broadway Baby") – Emily, Theodore, Solange, and Hattie
"The Road You Didn't Take" – Ben
"Bolero d'Amour" – Danced by Vincent and Vanessa ≠≠
"In Buddy's Eyes" – Sally
"Who's That Woman?" – Stella and Company
"I'm Still Here" – Carlotta
"Too Many Mornings" – Ben and Sally
"The Right Girl" – Buddy
"One More Kiss" – Heidi and Young Heidi
"Could I Leave You?" – Phyllis
"Loveland" – Company
"You're Gonna Love Tomorrow" / "Love Will See Us Through" – Young Ben, Young Sally, Young Phyllis and Young Buddy
"The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues" – Buddy, "Margie", "Sally"
"Losing My Mind" – Sally
"The Story of Lucy and Jessie" ≠ – Phyllis and Company
"Live, Laugh, Love" – Ben and Company
"Chaos" – Ben and Company
"Finale" – Young Buddy and Young Ben
≠ Some productions substitute "Ah, But Underneath"
≠≠ Omitted from some productions
Note: this is the original song list from the original Broadway production in 1971.
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