Whenever a major production of Follies is announced, it immediately becomes an event. The casting news, the production team, the venue – everything about the show is manna for the most die hard Sondheim fanatics. When the show was announced for Encores! four years ago, I remember there were some who felt it wasn’t an appropriate choice for the venue, but that didn’t curb audience enthusiasm. The production sold out its entire weekend run, with such a demand that they added an extra performance. Talk about a Broadway transfer came about, but it wasn’t to be.
Now rumors of this 2011 Kennedy Center revival have been stirring for about a year now, with various names being tossed about as possible contenders for the wide range of available roles. Those same folks who busted down the doors to get into the City Center are now gearing up to take on DC next spring. Already, the production has been extended and will be running at the Eisenhower Theatre from May 7 – June 9, 2011.
The first name to be officially announced sent ripples of excitement through the theatre world: Bernadette Peters will be playing Sally. BroadwayWorld announced that joining her would be John Dossett as Ben, Danny Burstein as Buddy and Kim Cattrall as Phyllis. Casting for those two leading man roles is still yet to be made public, however, Cattrall will not be a part of the production. Instead, the formidable Jan Maxwell – who is one of the great theatre actresses of our time – will be playing the aloof Phyllis, who cuts loose in “The Story of Lucy and Jessie.”
Additional cast members include Elaine Paige, making her first stateside appearance in a musical since her acclaimed 2004 run in NYCO’s Sweeney Todd, will be Carlotta and will belt out the showstopper of showstoppers, “I’m Still Here.” Tony winner Linda Lavin takes on Hattie Walker and “Broadway Baby” in the montage. Terri White, who stopped the show nightly in the all-too-brief revival of Finian’s Rainbow last season, is Stella Deems and will lead the ladies in “Who’s That Woman?”
Susan Watson, one of the foremost ingenues of the 1960s, will be playing Emily Whitman. Watson made her Broadway debut fifty years ago as the teenage Kim McAfee in the original company of Bye Bye Birdie. She also appeared on Broadway in Carnival, Ben Franklin in Paris and No No Nanette. Florence Lacey, whose thrilling belt graced Broadway in Hello, Dolly! and The Grand Tour, will be Sandra Crane. Régine will be Solange La Fitte. Also joining the cast will be opera singer Rosalind Elias as Heidi, Terrence Currier as Theodore Whitman and David Sabin as Dimitri Weissman. Additional casting is pending.
Eric Schaeffer is directing. Warren Carlyle will choreograph. James Moore (of my beloved Ragtime revival) will serve as musical director, conducting the Kennedy Center’s 28 piece orchestra using Jonathan Tunick‘s original orchestrations. Derek McLane will design the set, Gregg Barnes will design the costumes and Natasha Katz will design the lighting.
Tickets go on sale to Kennedy Center members on January 24 and to the general public on January 30. It appears I may just have to clear my entire schedule for the lusty month of May. If you want me, you can find me at the Kennedy Center. And I can tell you I won’t be alone…