THE HOUSE BEAUTIFUL
The crumbling Weissmann Theater in Stephen Sondheim's Follies
is a not-so-subtle metaphor for the show's characters, who gather for
one last look at their glorious past. The show itself is a definitive
example of art imitating life. Flo Ziegfeld, the true-life "Dimitri
Weissmann," began his infamous Follies in small vaudeville halls in New York, but his first true spectacle appeared in 1913 at the New Amsterdam Theater.
Built in 1903, it was described as "the house beautiful." Within
its walls were two theaters, an elaborate lobby, a grand staircase,
offices, lounges, murals and glorious architectural details, all
lavishly appointed in the rich art nouveau style of the time. A rooftop
theater was reserved for some of the girls' saucier performances, most
notably dancer Claire Luce riding a live ostrich with a bejeweled collar
across a jungle setting.
It wasn't just Flo Ziegfeld's beauties who graced the boards of
the theater. For decades, works from distinguished playwrights were
performed by the era's greatest performers.
The Great Depression marked a slow decline of the architectural
grand dame, and the decades took their toll. The splendid theater was
reduced to a movie house for action films, and its glorious past was
forgotten, until a redevelopment project in 1992 earmarked $36 million
for its restoration.
By 1997, the "house beautiful" was beautiful again and began her second life with the opening of Disney's The Lion King, a spectacle worthy of Ziegfeld's memory and the building's magnificent history.
Ziegfelds' own theater didn't fare so well. In 1923 he built a
1700-seat palace as a home for his lavish productions, and for a while
his beauties were on display there. But even Flo Ziegfeld couldn't
escape the Depression's broad decline. Like the New Amsterdam, the house
was relegated to the role of movie theater. But unlike the "house
beautiful," it didn't survive modern urban development and was torn down
to make room for a skyscraper in 1965.
As we follow the narrative in Follies,
we see that the past can never be recaptured. Beauty fades, fame
evaporates. The old must always step aside for the new. But director
Donnie Baillargeon says the show teaches us something else. There's
always another chance, he says, we can always find another way. It was
true for the New Amsterdam, which stands again in architectural
splendor. And it's true for Ziegfeld, whose own palace is no longer
extant, but whose legacy as one of the great Broadway producers of the
20th Century is secure. --Linda McConchie
Follies opens on November 6 and tickets will be on sale soon.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS!
AUDITIONS FOR PROOF, AMADEUS
Auditions for the winter show, Proof, directed by Nancy Curran Willis, will be in November, dates TBD. The audition dates for the spring show, Amadeus, directed by Kirsten Gould, are January 6, 7 and 10, 2016, at the Fenn school. More info soon!
Paul Murphy will be playing the part of Bill in Marblehead Little Theater's production of August Osage County.
This riveting play is the winner of both a Tony Award and Pulitzer
Prize. Performances October 9, 10, 15, 16, and 17 at 7:30 and October 11
and 18 at 2:00. Tickets can be ordered online here
A Celebration of Life for Dorothy Schecter, who passed away in
August, was held at 51 Walden on Sunday, September 27. The celebration
went exceptionally well. Her granddaughter Jenna Worsham organized it,
and everyone who spoke was most eloquent, especially Dorothy's
god-daughter, the actress Nancy Carroll, who was excellent and very
funny. Stephen Collins performed an introduction, a variation on his
opening speech as the stage manager in Our Town (The theme of the celebration was "Our Dorothy".) A reception followed.
DOWNTON ABBEY DIVAS!
United Woman's Club of Concord invited the Concord Players' Costume
Divas and friends to model turn of the century fashions at their
September "Downton Abbey Tea." Tracy Wall, Players President, gave an
excellent talk and slide show on how technological advances helped
liberate women and encouraged them to drop their corsets and shorten
their skirts. Models Kathy Booth, Carol Antos, Anne Bantly and Liz
Bishop strolled through the audience in fashions from Concord Players'
costume closets. Their outfits were authentic in period style with
beautiful gowns, hats, shoes and gloves, including even knickerbockers
and a WWI nurse! Shortly after their performance, they received another
invitation from the Concord Council on Aging to repeat the fashion show.
GIANT RUMMAGE SALE
Oct. 10 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to benefit the Opera51 production of
Romeo and Juliet next June. Clothes (including some designer stuff),
household goods, antiques, books, toys, crafting supplies and more!
Saturday, October 10, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 51 Walden, in beautiful
Concord Center. Admission is $1, refunded with a purchase. For further
information call 978 369-7911.
BLAME THOSE GERSHWINS, A WILL McMILLAN CD
Do you remember Will McMillan, a Broadway and cabaret artist who performed for one of our big fundraisers? I was delighted when he asked me to review his CD, Blame Those Gershwins,
with music composed by Steve Sweeting, who also is on piano. I've
listened to it several times now, and I really love it. The title song
playfully borrows themes from the greats: the Gershwins, Cole Porter,
Johnny Mercer, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, and more. The lyrics for many songs were written by Sweeting, and McMillan wrote the words for several of the other songs.
|Original Ziegfeld Theatre|
GET YOUR SUBSCRIPTION NOW
Have you ordered your subscription yet? Tickets for Follies
will go on sale soon! Order a subscription for all three shows. The
rate of $55 is 20% off the ticket price, and you can request a seat
assignment before they go on sale to the general public. Don't miss out
on this acclaimed season, with its line-up of all-star directors!
Visit our website to get your subscription today.
CHECK OUT THE OFFICE!
have been hard at work tidying up the Players office
space. Office? You might very well ask. The office is that
dark, crowded little space in the corner of the Green Room, next to the
stairs from the tunnel. It has been a repository for everything
from leftover T-shirts, makeup, posters, programs, old scripts and post
cards to a giant stuffed cow. Well, all that has changed! A team of
folks including Brian Harris, Kathy Lague, Craig Howard, Allen and Anne
Bantly and Tracy Wall has been dusting, cleaning, painting, sorting
scripts, putting up shelves and filing boxes of stuff that have been
until now scattered to the winds. There
is also a copier, and soon we'll have WiFi in the Green Room. The
end result is a tidy, clean space we can use for a long time to come, to
keep track of all of the doings of The Concord Players.
by when you're at the theater next to take a look at the "new"
space. Support for this project comes from a grant from the Valerie
Beth Schwartz Foundation, who gave us funds to revamp the downstairs
area of 51 Walden. This is only the first part of the project.
We'll be tackling the tunnel, bathrooms, dressing rooms and the Green
Room, too! More to come.