logoIn the Wings
The Newsletter of The Concord Players
June 2015                                                Robert Runck, Editor


Auditions for the fall musical, Stephen Sondheim's Follies, will be held on June 9 and 10 by appointment. For details, see the Concord Players website



Stephen Sondheim's 1971 musical Follies, our fall show, is freighted with emotion. Intense, raw, uncomfortable emotion, with characters who frankly rue the course of their lives, hurling regret at each other in a juggernaut of bitterness. One reviewer described it as "... a wholly unsenti-mental musical infused with grief." Sondheim recruited novelist James Goldman to write the book for his show. Originally titled The Girls Upstairs, and inspired by a New York Times article about a gathering of former Ziegfeld Follies showgirls, Follies examines the unhappy afterlife of entertainers whose dazzling fame turned out to be as evanescent as their youth and beauty.

    It sounds so depressing, one might wonder why anybody would want to see it, but Sondheim's midas touch prevails in his polyphonic songs and caustic, intelligent lyrics. The production values shimmer brightly, helping to dim the characters' misery. The show received eleven Tony Award nominations in 1972, winning seven, including Best Score for Sondheim.

    And the showgirls? What of them? Sondheim's fictional "Weismann's Follies" is a transparent reference to the wildly popular and outrageously extravagant musical revues produced by American impresario Florenz (Flo) Ziegfeld, the self-proclaimed "glorifier of the American girl." His dazzling spectacles dominated Broadway and were the topic of gossip columns all over the country during the first three decades of the 20th century.
(Continued on next column.)


The Show Bus trip to the Boston Opera House is on to see Kinky Boots. Date: Thursday, August 27, 2015, leaving 51 Walden at 6:00 p.m for a 7:30 performance. Cost: $124.00 per person, which includes center orchestra seating, transportation by motor coach, all fees and gratuities (plus snacks!) To reserve tickets, please email Brian Harris at brian@baharris.org


In case you missed it, a great time was had by all at the annual Spring Frolic on Sunday, May 31. There were many delicious dishes and yummy strawberry desserts at the potluck. We bid a fond farewell (complete with tiara and a serenade) to Jill Henderson, who will be stepping down from the Players Board, and presented three Players with Heddies for their outstanding service to the season: Anne Bantly, Kerry Morse and Paula McNabb. Thanks all for another fantastic year!


FOPAC's fully staged and costumed production of the comic opera L'Elisir d'Amore by Gaetano Donizetti will be performed on June 5 and 6 at 8 p.m. and June 7 at 2 p.m. Chorus and orchestra will be conducted by Alan Yost. Singing the lead roles are Robin Farnsley (Adina) Ray Bauwens (Nemorino), Adrianne Fleming (Gianetta), Nathan Rodriguez (Belcore) and Michael Prichard (Dulcamara). Musicologist Laura Prichard will give a pre-concert lecture one hour before each performance. All tickets are $25. Call 978 369-9711 or purchase on-line at fopac. Proceeds will benefit the operation of 51 Walden. Pictured is our beautiful Gianetta.


Concord Player Johnny Kinsman is excited to announce his upcoming production of Romeo VS. Juliet (An Old-Timey Baseball Comedy of Love and Woe). Adapted by Kinsman, Anthem's Associate Artistic Director and beloved Boston DUKW-boat personality "Plucky Ruffles,"  Romeo VS. Juliet strikes out the tragedy of the famed romance and pitches some olde tyme song and dance. Complete with Coach "Friar" Lawrence caught in a rundown of "Who's on First" and the bat-crossed title duo falling in love on the pitcher's mound, a cast of six will play all 30 roles in this summer romp to please audiences of all ages. The play, with music sourced from baseball's golden age, will be performed outdoors and FREE of charge to the public at beautiful Joan Lorentz Park (Broadway and Ellery Streets, Cambridge) on June 19-21 and June 26-28. Friday perfor-mances are at 6:30 p.m, with Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Joan Lorentz Park is located in front of the Cambridge Public Library and easily accessible via the MBTA Red Line to Harvard Square Station. More information can be found at anthem theatre 


Florenz Ziegfeld

Born in Chicago in 1867, Ziegfeld was the son of a college music professor who, in 1893, sent his son to find musical talent for the Chicago World's Fair. The younger Ziegfeld returned instead with Eugen Sandow, billed as "the world's strongest man". His father wasn't pleased, but the experience whetted Ziegfeld's appetite for novel, sensational entertainment and ignited his talent as a promoter. 

    His early productions were variety revues in the vaudeville genre, but in 1907, he hit the jackpot when he starred little-known European performer Anna Held in a play called A Parlor Match. Anna was versatile, talented, beautiful and lusty. Born in Warsaw, Poland, she came to New York by way of Paris where she was performing in a musical revue when Ziegfeld spotted her. Anna was an instant sensation. Later, as Ziegfeld's common-law wife, she hatched the idea of creating an elaborate show in the style of Paris' Folies-Bergère

Toulouse-Lautrec poster for the Folies-Bergère

The Folies-Bergère, which opened in May 1869, was the first music-hall in Paris. It was conceived in conscious imitation of the Alhambra in London, a music hall known and much-loved for broad comedy, opera, ballet and circus. A Folies-Bergère show typically included ballet, acrobatics, pantomime, operetta, animal acts, many including spectacular special effects. However, the Folies-Bergère was perhaps better known for its sensual allures. Built in 1860 as an opera house, and named for the nearby Rue Bergère, the theatre featured musical revues, operetta and light comedy. Acts that included snake charmers, acrobats, pantomime and even a Greek prince covered in tattoos were common displays in the Folies bill of fare until nude or semi-nude women trumped boxing kangaroos and dancing elephants as major attractions at the gate. 

    Anna Held knew well the power of feminine charms, and being no fool, Ziegfeld followed her lead when creating his own American spectacle.

Ziegfeld exploited Held's sexy, naughty persona with press releases of her "milk baths," and other salacious fallacies. In 1907, they mounted their first "Ziegfeld's Follies" as a light, comical summer entertainment. It featured the saucy Hannah and the nearly naked "glorified girls" who became Ziegfeld's trademark.

Over the years, these  extravaganzas became more elaborate, with lavish costumes and sets, featuring beauties chosen personally by Ziegfeld. Production numbers choreographed to the works of prominent composers such as George Gershwin, Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin featured Ziegfeld's beauties. His "glorified girls" often appeared in bizarre and sensational headpieces, like the miniature battleships he perched upon their crowns in a 1909 revue with a patriotic theme.

    Zeigfeld prized beauty over talent, but his shows attracted some of the most gifted performers of the time. Fanny Brice, Ruth Etting, W. C. Fields, Eddie Cantor and Will Rogers were among the many whose celebrity could be attributed to their appearances in Ziegfeld's Follies.

  Ziegfeld may have glorified his American girls as showpieces in his spectacles, but in his personal life he fell short. Anna eventually divorced him for his flagrant womanizing. Billie Burke, a Follies girl and his second wife, used her substantial income as a performer to support his lavish productions. She is known to many generations as Glenda the Good Witch in the 1929 film The Wizard of Oz.

-Linda McConchie