Sunday, October 23, 2011

Classic Musical Theater

Everything Was Possible: The Birth of the Musical
Everything Was Possible: 

The Birth of the Musical "Follies" 

"I dim the lights
And think about you
Spend sleepless nights
To think about you
You said you loved . . . . me
Or were you just being kind
Or am I losing my mind"

  Last week I saw a production of Follies at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. The direction and ensemble was excellent with a few standout numbers and only minor flaws (the sound system). The performance so excited and intrigued me that I picked up this book at the Chicago Public Library. If you love musical theater you will not be disappointed reading it for Ted Chapin provides unique insights into the creation of a what is now, forty years later, a classic musical.                   
  Stephen Sondheim (music & lyrics), Harold Prince (director & producer), and James Goldman (book) were all in or entering the prime of their careers and Michael Bennett who choreographed the show was soon to reach the peak of his too short career. All the elements of the creation are told with fascinating detail that could not be provided by any one else, for as a production assistant (gofer) Ted Chapin had access to all and a chance to participate and listen to many illuminating conversations. From the days preparing the scenes in the very location where the scenery was being built to the tryouts in Boston and back to Broadway for the opening the Chapin shares the odyssey in which he had a close if somewhat small hand. The results of the work of the creators and cast are the stuff of musical theater history, but seeing the musical performed forty years later here in Chicago confirmed for me that this is a classic of the American theater. Ted Chapin's book is a great way to share in the birth of that classic.  
  "Lord knows at least I was there," goes a Sondheim lyric from Follies.  In Everything was Possible, we all are there -- at the birth of a musical that shimmers to this day.

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