Gene Nelson in “Follies”

Seeing the first preview of Follies on Sunday, I haven’t been able to get the score out of my mind (something that happens every time I see the show). But this time, in particular, it’s been Buddy’s two big numbers that have been haunting me. There’s much I want to say about this new revival of Follies, but I’ll hold off for now. (See it!)

Poor Buddy. He leaves law school and becomes a traveling salesman. From the fragments of past and present, we learn that he’s the nice guy who finished last (out of the quartet, he’s the one for whom I have the most empathy). He’s been married to Sally, but she’s always burned a torch for Ben and has taken out her delusions, mood swings and erratic behavior on her husband. Meanwhile, Margie, his mistress, is the ideal partner and loves him unabashedly, but he doesn’t love her back.

The role was originated in 1971 by Gene Nelson, who famously danced his way through several 1950s Doris Day musicals and the film version of Oklahoma! By the time of Follies, Nelson had turned mostly to directing and worked on numerous TV shows and some films. For his work in the musical, he was nominated for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. Nelson only made one more appearance on Broadway in the failed revival of Good News three years later opposite Alice Faye.

Here are some rare clips of him in action (like “The Story of Lucy and Jessie” video, this appears to sync up a live recording with rare silent footage). Enjoy.

After seeing Sally in the arms of Ben, rekindling the brief romance that has haunted their lives, Buddy tears into this number about the girl he should love; getting out his rage and frustation with some really intense choreography from Michael Bennett:


Then after the Loveland transition, and the Young Quartet has their say, Buddy delivers the spirited “The God-Why-Don’t-You-Love Me Blues,” a vaudeville chase pastiche (this time “Sally” and “Margie” materialize):