Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Remembering Papermill Playhouse's FOLLIES...13 years later!

Happy Wednesday! Anyone who knows me knows that I always have music surrounding me. I can't imagine not having that sense to be able to hear music. I get up each morning, start my coffee, and grab a CD. I don't even know how many CDs I own. I do have over 5000 songs on my Ipod always on shuffle.

This morning, I got up and grabbed FOLLIES, the original cast recording. I am listening to it as I write my morning blog. The picture you see here is me and Danny backstage with Ann Miller (she said call me Annie!) at The Papermill Playhouse which we saw on this date in 1998. (Brief scene then Rain on the Roof, Ah, Paris!, and Kaye Ballards's wonderful Broadway Baby.)
That was my first (and so far only) FOLLIES and it was swell -- would LOVE to see other productions, for various reasons. I can't imagine DC's current production to be anything but wonderful.

Wow, has it really been that long!?!?! Dick Kelly, a very dear friend (who introduced me to Dody Goodman) was a friend of Ann Miller's.

I was dying to see the show. He called Ann and told her about me and that I wanted to meet after the show. She said, "Of course!". It was incredible to see her on stage. I, unfortunately, never saw her in Sugar Babies, and I envy everyone who saw her in MAME.
I also have a playbill of her in HELLO, DOLLY! Can you imagine? I bet that was a tour de force! Anyway, back to Ann. We went to a Saturday matinee in May of 1998. It was a gorgeous day. The entire cast was superb! It was equally exciting to see my friends Donna McKechnie and Meredith Patterson (who I had done summer stock at Theatre By The Sea with). When Ann sang"I'm Still Here", electricity went through that theatre and beyond.

It still is strong in my mind.
There was talk at one time that that production was going to go to Broadway.
A huge shame that it did not.
After the show, we went backstage to see Ann. Anyone who has ever been backstage at The Papermill Playhouse knows that the dressing rooms are slightly larger than shoe boxes. Ann was sharing a dressing room with Phyllis Newman (ask her to tell you sometime about Ann Miller's wigs!).
Ann popped her head out and asked if we wouldn't mind waiting while she took off her make-up. 45 minutes later she emerged wearing more make-up than she wore in the show: her street make-up! (See photo above!)

But we had about a 45 minute visit with Ann and her dogs. We talked mostly about her doing THE LOVE BOAT with Carol Channing. Carol has some great stories about working with Ann Miller.

It was a day and a memory that I will always cherish! I'M STILL HERE! Opened April 15, 1998 at the Paper Mill Playhouse, Milburn NJ
Closed May 31, 1998
Produced by the Paper Mill Playhouse
[Angelo Del Rossi, Executive Producer] Angelo and I eventually became good friends. Robert Johanson, Artistic Director]
Associate Producer: Roy Miller
Produced in association with Gene R. Korf
Directed by Robert Johanson
Choreography by Jerry Mitchell. Jerry, of course, produces BROADWAY BARES every year. (Pictured) Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is the theatre community’s response to the AIDS crisis. By drawing upon the talents, resources and generosity of the theatre community, on Broadway, Off-Broadway and across the country, BC/EFA raises funds for AIDS-related causes across the United States. Since its founding in 1988, BC/EFA has raised over $175 million for critically needed services for people with AIDS, HIV, or HIV-related illnesses.

Jerry Mitchell is a Facebook friend. And, of course, he is represented on Broadway right now in CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, which I saw a few weeks ago and loved!
Catch Me If You Can, the new Broadway musical from the hit-makers behind Hairspray, began at the Neil Simon Theatre March 7, 2011.(DanceOn presents the fifth episode of DIARY OF A CHORUS GIRL! It's the final week in the rehearsal studio before the cast and crew move to the Neil Simon Theater.

DIARY OF A CHORUS GIRL is an original webseries that follows the making of Broadway's CATCH ME IF YOU CAN through the eyes of Alex Ellis, a cast member making her Broadway debut!)

The ORIGINAL production of FOLLIES:

Tryouts ran February 20 - March 20, 1971 at the Colonial Theatre, Boston

Previews began March 24, 1971 at the Winter Garden Theatre, NYC
Ran for 12 preview performances
Opened April 4, 1971 at the Winter Garden Theatre
Closed July 1, 1972; Ran for 522 performances
Produced by Harold Prince
in association with Ruth Mitchell
Directed by Harold Prince and Michael Bennett
Choreography by Michael Bennett(This video is an excerpt from the highly recommended 1992 concert DVD "Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall".)
Scenic Production Designed by Boris Aronson
Costumes by Florence Klotz
Lighting by Tharon Musser
Dance Music Arranged by John Berkman
Musical Direction by Harold Hastings
Orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick
Cast included

Major-Domo - Dick Latessa [replaced by Joseph Nelson]
Sally Durant Plummer - Dorothy Collins
Young Sally - Marti Rolph
Christine Donovan * - Ethel Barrymore Colt [replaced by Terry Saunders on 7/7/71, then by Jan Clayton on 2/27/72]
Willy Wheeler - Fred Kelly [replaced by Donald Weissmuller]
Stella Deems - Mary McCarty
Max Deems - John J. Martin

Back to Papermill's Follies: (Original Choreography by Michael Bennett and Bob Avian for "Who's That Woman")
Scenic Design by Michael Anania
Costumes by Gregg Barnes
Lighting Design by Mark Stanley
Sound Design by Craig Cassidy
Co-Musical Direction by Jim Coleman & Tom Helm

Dmitri Weismann - Eddie Bracken

"The Weissman Girls"
Sally Durant Plummer - Donna McKechnieDonna McKechnie certainly has had a life worth writing about: She left her dysfunctional Detroit home at age 16, made her Broadway debut at age 19 in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, became one of the Great White Way's premier dancers in the landmark musicals Promises, Promises and Company -- in signature pieces choreographed by her friend and future husband, Michael Bennett -- and helped to create the autobiographically inspired role of Cassie in Bennett's A Chorus Line, which earned her the Tony Award for Best Actress. But life hasn't been all statuettes and glitter for McKechnie; there was her painful divorce from Bennett in 1977 and his untimely death in 1983, coupled with a career that saw more downs and up for almost two decades until her return to Broadway in the revival of State Fair and her spectacular performance as Sally in the 1998 Paper Mill Playhouse production of Follies. (Source Brian Scott Lipton,
Young Sally - Danette Holden
Phyllis Rogers Stone - Dee Hoty
Young Phyllis - Meredith Patterson
Carlotta Campion - Ann Miller
Young Carlotta - Jillana Urbina
Hattie Walker - Kaye Ballard
Young Hattie - Krista Lepore
Stella Deems - Phyllis Newman(An original song written for her by her late husband Adolph Green, from her 1968 LP "Those Were The Days").
Young Stella - Pamela Jordan
Solange La Fitte - Liliane MontevecchiYoung Solange - Jean Marie
Heidi Schiller - Carol Skarimbas
Young Heidi - Ingrid Ladendorf
Emily Whitman - Natalie Mosco
Young Emily - Pascale Faye
Christine Donovan - Ann Cunningham
Young Christine - Temple Kane
Sandra Crane - Laura Kenyon
Young Sandra - Julie Connors
Dee Dee West - Billie Thrash
In 2007, Encores did a critically acclaimed production of FOLLIES that included Victoria Clark, Donna Murphy, Victor Garber and Christine Baranski.It still kills me that I missed that! Follies
Encores at NY City Center - NYC
February 2007
Review by John Kenrick

"As the audience roared through the tumultuous curtain calls on the final night of the triumphant Encores series staging of Stephen Sondheim's Follies, a friend asked why I looked so damned sad. I told him it was simple -- I have no reason to believe that anything else I see this season will be nearly as glorious.

Few musicals are so suited to an all-star concert treatment -- Chicago being one of the obvious contenders. Like that Kander & Ebb treasure (which sprang from an Encores weekend into a still-thriving ten year Broadway run), Sondheim's Follies score is chock full of showstoppers, giving magical moments to all the lead players and several supporting characters. James Goldman's book does much of its work brilliantly, evoking the emotions that pour forth when old cast members of a long-gone series of Broadway revues reunite to celebrate the imminent demolition of their old theatre. True, the soap opera-like romantic tangles of the four leads get painfully smushed in the second act, leading up to a climactic nervous breakdown that no production has ever quite made believable."
Follies is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Goldman. The story concerns a reunion in a crumbling Broadway theatre, scheduled for demolition, of the past performers of the "Weismann's Follies," a musical revue (based on the Ziegfeld Follies), that played in that theatre between the World Wars. It focuses on two couples, Buddy and Sally Durant Plummer and Benjamin and Phyllis Rogers Stone, who are attending the reunion. Sally and Phyllis were showgirls in the Follies. Both couples are deeply unhappy with their marriages. 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. Several of the former showgirls perform their old numbers, sometimes accompanied by the ghosts of their former selves.
Here are a few of my favorite BROADWAY BABIES!
Bernadette Peters!The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts' production of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman's FOLLIES began previews May 7. The cast will feature two-time Tony winner Bernadette Peters as Sally Durant Plummer,four-time Tony nominee Jan Maxwell as Phyllis Rogers Stone, two-time Tony nominee Danny Burstein as Buddy Plummer, Ron Raines as Benjamin Stone and Olivier Award winner Elaine Paige as Carlotta Campion.

The production will also star Terrence Currier as Theodore Whitman, Christian Delcroix as Young Buddy, Rosalind Elias as Heidi Schiller, Colleen Fitzpatrick as Dee Dee West, Lora Lee Gayer as Young Sally, Michael Hayes as Roscoe, Florence Lacey as Sandra Crane, Linda Lavin as Hattie Walker, Régine as Solange LaFitte, David Sabin as Dimitri Weismann, Kirsten Scott as Young Phyllis, Frederick Strother as Max Deems, Nick Verina as Young Ben, Susan Watson as Emily Whitman and Terri White as Stella Deems.

Rounding out the ensemble will be Lawrence Alexander, Brandon Bieber, John Carroll, Sara Edwards, Leslie Flesner, Jenifer Foote, Leah Horowitz, Suzanne Hylenski, Danielle Jordan, Joe Kolinski, Amanda Larsen, Brittany Marcin, Edrie Means, Erin Moore, Pamela Otterson, Clifton Samuels, Kiira Schmidt, Brian Shepard, Sam Strasfeld, Amos Wolff and Ashley Yeater.

Follies will run May 7 to June 19, 2011 in the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. The production features a book by James Goldman and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and will be directed by Eric Schaeffer with choreography by Warren Carlyle. James Moore will serve as music director and will conduct the 28-piece Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra.

When former members of the -Weismann Follies reunite on the eve of their theater's demolition, two couples remember their past and face the harsher realities of the present. In the crumbling glamour of the theater, The Shadows of their younger selves remind them of the complicated steps they've danced - both on the stage and throughout their lives. Containing such well-known songs as -Broadway Baby, -I'm Still Here, -Too Many Mornings, -Could I Leave You? and -Losing My Mind, Follies echoes the songs, exuberance and romance of the vaudeville days between the two World Wars.

Originally produced on Broadway by Harold Prince with orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick, Follies opened on April 4, 1971 starring Dorothy Collins, John McMartin, Gene Nelson, and Alexis Smith. It ran for 522 performances in the Winter Garden Theatre and received seven Tony Awards®, including Best Original Score.

The Kennedy Center production of Follies will feature scenic design by Derek McLane, costume design by Gregg Barnes, lighting design by Natasha Katz, and sound design by Kai Harada. The musical will feature Jonathan Tunick's original orchestrations.

FOLLIES will play at the Kennedy Center May 7 through June 19.


DOROTHY LOUDEN who created one of the more indelible portraits in musical comedy history with her portrayal of the slatternly, orphan-hating Miss Hannigan in the orignal Annie, was 70 when she died (I STILL GRIEVE OVER THIS!). The cause was cancer.

Loudon won a 1977 Tony Award for Annie. As Miss Hannigan, the tippling mistress of a dank city orphanage, she first abused Little Orphan Annie, then tried to steal her away from the loving and rich Daddy Warbucks in hopes of a reward. She delighted audiences nightly with her comic-sour ode to "Little Girls." She shared a second rousing number, "Easy Street," with the characters of Rooster, Hannigan's conniving brother, and Lily St. Regis, Rooster's dim floozy girlfriend.

A blowsy, big-voiced, big-haired, big-eyed presence, Loudon did not shy from generous performances. She was in many ways a creature of the stage, where, despite appearing in a high number of flops, she found her greatest success.

Loudon landed the role of Hannigan only by chance, after a chance encounter Mike Nichols, who was Annie's producer. The two had known each other from their early cabaret days in Manhattan, and Nichols had directed her in her stage debut, an Off-Broadway production of World of Jules Feiffer. Nichols suggested the then-out-of-work actress audition. She did, and won the job.

Annie proved the culmination of a long, hit-and-miss career. Though she went on to a few more noteworthy parts—she played opposite Katharine Hepburn in West Side Waltz in 1981 and starred in the original Broadway production of Noises Off in 1983—she never again found a vehicle as good or successful as Annie. In recent years, she was seldom seen on the New York stage. Loudon was announced to act in Dinner at Eight last season at Lincoln Center Theater, but bowed out during previews. Marian Seldes took over.

A few other projects did not completely flower. In 1998, Varese Sarabande Records released a concept recording of a musical based on the film The Night of the Hunter, on which Loudon sang a role. No production resulted in the actress' lifetime. The next year, she acted at Signature Theatre of Virginia's world premiere of Over & Over, the John Kander and Fred Ebb musicalization of The Skin of Our Teeth. The show did not go beyond that staging and remains in development.

Dorothy Loudon was born Sept. 17, 1933, in Boston, MA, and went to school at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Her first love was dancing. "I used to walk around with a turban and tap shoes, and I took tap-dancing lessons," she told Playbill's Harry Haun in one of her last interviews. "Then, for some reason, when I went to college, I thought 'Dancers are very disciplined, and I don't want to live that hard life,' so I got a drama scholarship to Syracuse and did a lot of acting there. That's really all I wanted to do from that point on."

She first attracted national attention on television's "Gary Moore Show," where she replaced Carol Burnett (who would later get the Miss Hannigan role in the movie of Annie).

The actress made her Broadway debut in the revue Nowhere to Go But Up. The 1962 show lasted only a week, but Ms. Loudon won good notices and a Theatre World Award. Also short-lived were 1968's Noel Coward's Sweet Potato, 1969's The Fig Leaves Are Falling (for which she nonetheless received a Tony nomination and a Drama Desk Award) and 1969's revival of Three Men on a Horse (another Drama Desk Award).

She won a third Tony nomination for 1978's Ballroom, the Michael Bennett musical which lasted only a few months.

Her success in Annie led to a short-lived 1979 television series called "Dorothy," in which she played a former Broadway star who teaches at an all-girl school in Connecticut.

Touring engagements included a stint in the Harold Prince-directed Show Boat.

Ms. Loudon was married to Norman Paris, a musician and composer, in 1971. He died in 1977, during her run in Annie; she left the show shortly thereafter. She is survived by two stepchildren.

The comedienne displayed her ability to seize a comic moment with the best of them on opening night of the New York run of West Side Waltz. "Opening night we were doing a scene and the phone rang and it wasn't supposed to ring," Loudon recalled. "[Katharine Hepburn and I] both just sort of stared at it. Katharine was closest to it so she went over and picked it up and she say in that marvelous voice, 'Hello?' And then she held it out to me and said, 'It's for you.' I went over and took the phone and put the receiver to my ear and said, 'Well, whoever it was hung up.'" I was lucky enough to see her in JERRY'S GIRLS six times!

(Photo by Barry Gordin last year's Bistro Awards)
Elaine Bawson Stritch (born February 2, 1925) is an American actress and vocalist. She has appeared in numerous stage plays and musicals, feature films, and many television programs. She is known for her performance of "The Ladies Who Lunch" in Stephen Sondheim's 1970 musical Company, her 2001 one-woman show Elaine Stritch at Liberty, and recently for her role as Jack Donaghy's mother Colleen on NBC's 30 Rock. She has been nominated for the Tony Award four times in various categories, and won for Elaine Stritch at Liberty.

Have a GREAT Wednesday!

All you have to do today is bask in the LOVE and talent that surrounds you!
(Buy FOLLIES from Papermill Playhouse at FYE Music

Tomorrow's blog will be YOU TELL ME...the first three suggestions I receive!

Richard Skipper,

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