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Everything Was Possible: The Birth of the Musical Follies (Applause Books) Paperback – March 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Chapin tells how the 1971 Hal Prince/ Stephen Sondheim/Michael Bennett musical about old theater performers created no strapping young stars, went through multiple revisions, lost money and yet established a place in theater memory for emotional and artistic complexity. The author, son of arts impresario Schuyler Chapin, was one of Follies's few youngsters, a Connecticut College student observing the production as independent study but becoming the crew's gofer. Chapin's chronology spans the practical to the exceptional, from how tap sounds are created to the last-minute writing of Yvonne De Carlo's now-standard I'm Still Here. He also charts Boris Aronson's multileveled sets, the dress that transformed Alexis Smith into the show's star, the inestimable uses of previews in Boston, the Broadway opening and the surrounding national interest in the play. Chapin doesn't dwell on the negative audience reaction to Follies's ambiguities, leaving the play's year-long run to tell the tale. Despite much praise and many Tony Awards, Follies closed after 522 performances. It lost almost $800,000 and was considered a "financial failure." Still, nearly all the players considered it a high point of their careers. Prince called it his "favorite show"; Bennett said, "So much of that show was better than anything I've ever seen or anything I've ever done." Maybe, as Frank Rich says, it needs time to gain its place in theater history. Whatever happens, Chapin memorably marks the creation of a difficult, honorable work. 8 pages of color photos and 63 b&w photos in text.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* It's a pity, but most of the planning and preparation of a play or musical becomes lost. Sure, some artifacts survive: costume sketches, set models, props, programs, fawning features, and caustic reviews. But most of the behind-the-scenes work--rehearsals, rewrites, meetings of the creative minds--goes undocumented. Chapin's chronicle of the making of Stephen Sondheim's Follies constitutes a rare exception. In 1971 Chapin worked as a gofer for the producing team, including directors Hal Prince and Michael Bennett, book writer William Goldman, and Sondheim, involved in the premiere production of the soon-to-be landmark musical; and he kept a detailed, daily journal of the show's progress. Three decades later, he has assembled the journal entries and his memories, augmented by extensive interviews, into a fascinating narrative. Through young Chapin's eyes we see Prince, Sondheim, and company putting together the show that made Sondheim a cult hero. Here is Sondheim obsessing over lyrics, Prince fretting over his nervous stomach, and the cast of older actors struggling to learn difficult parts. Chapin traces Follies from first rehearsals in January 1971, through out-of-town tryouts, to opening night, April 4, 1971, and beyond. A book to please Sondheim aficionados, it should also engross anyone wanting to know the details of mounting a big-budget Broadway show. Jack Helbig
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Applause Books
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books; Softcover edition (March 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557836531
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557836533
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #233,738 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By D. Clancy on October 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Ted Chapin was the luckiest 20 year old whoever lived. As a "production assistant" (unpaid gofer)for the new Broadway musical "Follies", he had the opportunity and good sense to record the making of one of the greatest musicals of that era. "Everything Was Possible" covers the first rehearsals to the abysmal cast recording to what has happened to the people involved. Starting from pre production on, his narrative never gets stale. He tells of how Hal Prince, Stephen Sondheim and Michael Bennett pulled it all off. It wasn't always fun. They had to deal with a group of aging actors who found negotiating a raked stage dangerous and a lot of their vulnerabilites and insecurities.
The book will have significant impact on anyone who saw the show. I did not see it in New York but at the end of its Broadway run it was to go on a national tour starting in Los Angeles. With most of the original cast intact I sat center section at the Shubert Theatre in Los Angeles in September, 1972.
It was one of the most emotional roller coasters I have been on in the theatre. The tour ended two weeks later and "Follies" has seldom been revived.
All musical theatre afficionados will love Chapin's book. Thank you Ted for letting us see those "Beautiful Girls" one more time.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By krebsman VINE VOICE on October 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In 1971 Ted Chapin was a 20-year old college student who found a way to wangle a job as a production assistant (gofer) on FOLLIES and get college credit for it. No doubt, Chapin's family connections helped him a great deal (which he readily admits) and I'm sure that because of it he was treated with far more respect than the average gofer. But connections or not, he was still a kid in love with the theatre. Chapin's youthful enthusiasm and hero worship shine through the book. The part that really melted my heart was when realizes he's the first person to type the lyrics for a new Sondheim song, "I'm Still Here." And you realize that even though today Chapin is powerful and successful, he still takes great pride in having been the first person to type the lyrics for "I'm Still Here."
At the time of FOLLIES it was not unusual for shows to go into rehearsal with large sections of the script (the ending, for example) marked, "To Be Written." (Things are not like that today.) There are changes that happen in rehearsals, such as taking away "Losing My Mind" from Alexis Smith and giving it to Dorothy Collins. (It finally worked!) We see the changes that the show makes in its Boston tryout and the differences they make. There are great photos of the stars in the wigs and costumes that didn't work and were discarded. We read about the dramatic changes that happen when "Can That Boy Foxtrot" gets replaced by "I'm Still Here" and "Uptown and Downtown" gets replaced by "Lucy and Jessie." Then there were the trials of Alexis Smith losing her voice and Gene Nelson's son becoming involved in a life-threatening situation on the West Coast. Could the understudies go on? They've had no rehearsal at all!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on August 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The book is good, but it is the book of two men, a young and an old, who are not the best of collaborators. I think the young man to whom most of the adventures happen would have been more gossipy and excited about things were he not held in place by the distinguished older gentleman Ted Chapin of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization. For example, if you read between the lines, it seems pretty clear that the young Ted was pretty much crushed out on the glamorous Hollywood hasbeen Yvonne de Carlo, who came to New York City in full glamor mode and took Ted out on a series of dates to the Stork Club et al, and that when she left his life she left a big hole in it. But the older Ted sees ruefully that if it was a romance at all, it was pretty one-sided and potentially embarrassing. So the issue is tabled. I loved hearing all about how Sondheim created the score as the show was in tryouts; when it began only perhaps twenty minutes worth of music was finished, and the rest was created under intense pressure on the road in hotel rooms and coffee shops. I liked hearing about Mathilde Pincus, the music copyist, and the book gave me a new word I had never heard before. "She [Pincus] used a flat pen with black ink and wrote on 11" by 14" sheets of opaque paper called deschon, which had the musical staff lines printed in reverse on one side. Writing with ink on the other side allowed for errors to be erased without affecting the staff lines." I guess I had seen 'deschon" but never knew what it was, just like I went to see "Follies" with De Carlo, Smith, Collins, several times, and never really knew how it came to be created. Thank God for Ted Chapin, the young one and the middle-aged man as well.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Charles Slovenski on May 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
There ain't many of us, but there are enough of us to warrant a lengthy and detailed account of how Follies came to be. I'm talking about all of us would-be "Broadway babies," who went through college singing the lyrics to songs such as "Broadway Baby," "Buddy's Blues," "I'm Still Here," and sighed some deep ones over "Losing My Mind." We were too late to see the original production of Follies but we know all the songs by heart and the names of stars Alexis Smith and Yvonne De Carlo, despite never having seen any films of either Hollywood lady. If you can count yourself in this group of show people for whom Follies is legendary, then this book is for you.

To an outsider, it must read like a technical manual on some weird and twisted process. To me, it reads like every theatre production rehearsal period I've ever been through (and I'm not even a pro, so to speak) except that the tunes are being written by Sondheim almost minute to minute, Hal Prince is busting himself to get the nuances to be less subtle and Michael Bennett is try to move the thing along at a trot without giving his "older" actors heart attacks! Same process, big names, very high stakes.

The kid, that is the fly-on-the-wall former Follies gofer turned narrator, is good. Mr. Chapin, as a twenty year old student, worked as the Follies gofer - you think, that could have been me if I had been in the same place at the same time - and kept a journal of everything he saw and heard. The key here is that he heard a lot and jotted it down verbatim.
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