I'm not really a summer person. I never really have been. I've always looked forward to the fall, partly because my birthday is in September, but also because, when I was in school, I always looked forward to the the new academic year. (Yeah, I'm kind of a dork.) And now that I'm teaching full-time, I'm filled with that same sense of eager anticipation when August rolls around.
Of course, autumn also brings the promise of the new theater season, and, I don't know about you, but I'm becoming pretty darned excited. Sure, some folks are lamenting the relative paucity of new musicals. So far, the announced crop of new tuners is somewhat thinner than last year's crop. (Watch this space for a preview of new musicals for the upcoming Broadway season.)
But last season there were only two musical revivals on Broadway, whereas this season we're likely to see at least a half dozen. Of course, there's the eagerly anticipated new production of Porgy and Bess, which I'll be seeing twice during its run at the American Repertory Theatre. Plus there's Godspell, Evita, and potentially Jesus Christ Superstar, not to mention a significantly revised version of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.
But for Stephen Sondheim aficionados, the clear favorite will undoubtedly be Follies, a show that, to date, has found greater success in its recordings and concert presentations than in open-ended, fully staged productions. Follies had a decidedly lackluster revival in 2001, which, despite direction by Matthew Warchus and choreography by Kathleen Marshall, just kinda fell flat on the stage of the Belasco Theatre. For me, the problem was partly one of casting. The four central players -- Blythe Danner (Phyllis), Judith Ivey (Sally), Gregory Harrison (Ben), and Treat Williams (Buddy) -- somehow didn't mesh to create an emotionally moving core for the production, despite the considerable talents of these individual performers.
Ten years later, we have another chance to see Follies on Broadway, under the auspices of the Kennedy Center, where this production played a well-received engagement earlier this year. The production has transferred nearly intact for a limited run at Broadway's Marquis Theatre, with Eric Schaeffer and Warren Carlyle repeating their duties as director and choreographer, respectively. Much of the stellar cast has made the transfer as well, including headliners Bernadette Peters, Ron Raines, Jan Maxwell, and Danny Burstein. The supporting cast features such Broadway stalwarts as Jayne Houdyshell, Terri White, Mary Beth Peil, Susan Watson, and Florence Lacey, not to mention London regular Elaine Paige.
Sounds pretty good, huh? Well, if you're as eager as I am, I'm sure you'd love the chance to win a couple of tickets to see the show. Well, look no further, dear reader. Below are a few Follies trivia questions. Please submit your answers as a comment below. I will select a winner randomly from all entries with the correct responses. (Don't worry: I will only publish the comments after I have selected the winner.)
The contest is over, and the winner has been notified. Thanks to everyone who played!
1. The original working title for Follies remains with the show as the title of one of the show's songs. Which song is it? [The answer I was looking for was The Girls Upstairs, but as many of you pointed out the name of the song is actually "Waiting for the Girls Upstairs." So I accepted either answer.]
2. Stephen Sondheim and co-director Hal Prince were supposedly inspired to create Follies by a photo of a legendary silent-film star standing amid the wreckage of a demolished movie theater. Who was the star and what was the theater? [The film star was Gloria Swanson and it was the Roxy]
3. As often happens with shows under development, lots of songs came and went during the tryout period for Follies. Which song did the now-classic "I'm Still Here" replace? ["Can That Boy Foxtrot"]
4. Many of the original stars of Follies have passed away, but one of the original leading players is still going strong, and is currently appearing on Broadway in another musical revival. Who is this performer, and which show is he or she performing in? [John McMartin is in Anything Goes. And he's pretty frickin' amazing in it, too.]
5. Sondheim has described most of the songs in Follies as pastiche, i.e. homages to classic songs, or to particular composers and lyricists. For example, "The Story of Lucy and Jessie" was a homage to "The Saga of Jenny" from Lady in the Dark. And Sondheim intended "Losing My Mind" as "a Gershwin tune with a Dorothy Fields lyric." So, what classic theater song is "Beautiful Girls" an homage to? And in which series of shows (hint, hint) did the song originally appear? [The song is "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody," and it first appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies.]
The Fine Print: The tickets are good for Tuesday through Thursday performances between August 16th and September 29th. The contest deadline is midnight EST, Thursday, August 11th, 2011.