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.
*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 HelbigCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved