The Will Rogers Follies
|The Will Rogers Follies|
Original Broadway Playbill
Betty Comden |
Tony Award for Best Musical |
Tony Award for Best Score
Drama Desk Outstanding Music
It focuses on the life and career of famed humorist and performer Will Rogers, using as a backdrop the Ziegfeld Follies, which he often headlined, and describes every episode in his life in the form of a big production number. The Rogers character also performs rope tricks in between scenes. The revue contains snippets of Rogers' famous homespun style of wisdom and common sense and tries to convey the personality of this quintessentially American figure whose most famous quote was "I never met a man I didn't like."
After thirty-three previews, the Broadway production opened on May 1, 1991 at the Palace Theatre, and closed on September 5, 1993, after 981 performances and 33 previews. Directed and choreographed by Tommy Tune, the original cast included Keith Carradine as Rogers, Dee Hoty as Betty Blake, Dick Latessa as Will's father Clem, and Cady Huffman as Ziegfeld's favorite chorus girl. Replacements later in the run included Mac Davis and Larry Gatlin as Rogers, Mickey Rooney as Clem, and Susan Anton and Marla Maples as Ziegfeld's favorite chorus girl. The recorded voice of Gregory Peck was heard as Ziegfeld.
The original choice of the authors to play Will Rogers was John Denver, but, due to a perceived insult from librettist Peter Stone, John bowed out of consideration for casting.
The show also enjoyed a number of national tours, with Carradine, Davis, and Gatlin in the first National tour in 1993 and 1994. Pat Boone starred in the musical in Branson, Missouri in 1994. The role of Betty (his wife) was played by Marylee Graffeo(Fairbanks). Variety noted that "Broadway Came To Branson with the bow of the 'Will Rogers Follies: A Life in Review' in the new Will Rogers Theater last Saturday...Pat Boone is a solid hit in Branson as Will Rogers in the 'Follies.'" The music was not live but digitalized.
- Act I
Rogers frequently speaks directly to the audience and to Florenz Ziegfeld himself, who often interjects to question the progress of the show and to give some directorial advice. After introducing the audience to his friends and family, Rogers discusses leaving home at 19 to become a cowboy in Argentina. Ziegfeld tells Rogers that he must "meet the girl". Although Rogers met Betty Blake at a train station, Ziegfeld creates a more "theatrical" meeting by having her lowered romantically from the moon.
Because Betty is eager to marry Rogers, the show moves forward several years to a time when Rogers is playing in a small Wild West revue. The couple is about to be married, but Ziegfeld interrupts, saying that the wedding has to be delayed, because it must occur in the first act finale. So, as Rogers' success continues to grow, he and Betty travel around the country performing and produce four children. Rogers gets his big break when he is invited to join the Ziegfeld Follies and, by the early 1910s, he is a big vaudeville and radio star. He is about to leave for Hollywood to start a career in film, when it is at last time for the finale and the wedding.
- Act II
Rogers is at the zenith of his popularity, the country's biggest and highest paid star of every medium of his time– stage, screen, radio, newspapers, and public appearances– and is even asked to run for president. This doesn't leave him much time for Betty, and she begins to feel neglected and starts singing the blues. Rogers comes home with "a treasury of precious jewels," and all is forgiven. The good mood doesn't last long, however, as bill collectors and creditors come knocking at the door. Ziegfeld has lost his fortune, and the Great Depression is in full swing. Herbert Hoover asks Rogers to give a speech to the nation, and everyone is inspired. Rogers also reconciles with his estranged father. The show ends with the tragic plane ride in Alaska that he shares with Wiley Post, a character whose cheerful invitation, "Let's go flyin' Will!" is heard throughout the show.
Characters and original cast
- Will Rogers - Keith Carradine
- Betty Blake - Dee Hoty
- Clem Rogers (Will's father) - Dick Latessa
- Ziegfeld's Favorite - Cady Huffman
- Mr. Ziegfeld (voice) - Gregory Peck
- Wiley Post - Paul Ukena, Jr.
- Will Rogers, Jr. - Rick Faugno
- Mary Rogers - Tammy Minoff
- James Rogers - Lance Robinson
- Freddy Rogers - Gregory Scott Carter
- Betty's sisters; Will's sisters; some of the New Ziegfeld Girls; The Will Rogers Wranglers, etc.
Awards and nominations
Original Broadway production
|1991||Tony Award||Best Musical||Pierre Cossette, Martin Richards, Sam Crothers, James M. Nederlander, Stewart F. Lane, Max Weitzenhoffer||Won|
|Best Book of a Musical||Peter Stone||Nominated|
|Best Original Score||Cy Coleman, Betty Comden and Adolph Green||Won|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||Keith Carradine||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical||Dee Hoty||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical||Cady Huffman||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Tommy Tune||Won|
|Best Scenic Design||Tony Walton||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Willa Kim||Won|
|Best Lighting Design||Jules Fisher||Won|
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Musical||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Keith Carradine||Nominated|
|Outstanding Choreography||Tommy Tune||Won|
|Outstanding Orchestrations||Billy Byers||Nominated|
|Outstanding Music||Cy Coleman||Won|
- "THE IRREPARABLE INSULT: JOHN DENVER DOES NOT STAR ON BROADWAY AS WILL ROGERS". September 20, 2010. Retrieved August 28, 2014.
- (no author). "People in the News, Domestic News", The Associated Press, September 4, 1993 (no page number):"The national tour, now in Los Angeles, will continue its 96-week run through June 26. Mac Davis has replaced Keith Carradine as Will Rogers in the touring show. Gatlin, now the lead on Broadway, is expected to replace Davis early next year."
- CBS News Transcripts, Show: CBS This Morning, "Pat Boone Discusses His Role In "Will Rogers Follies"", Anchors: Mark McEwen, April 26, 1994
- Archerd, Army. "Just for Variety", Daily Variety, April 13, 1994 (no page number)
- The Will Rogers Follies at the Internet Broadway Database
- Information about the show and national tours
- NODA's synopsis of the show
- Information about the cast album