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In 1971, college student Ted Chapin found himself front row center as a production assistant at the creation of one of the greatest Broadway musicals, Follies. Needing college credit to graduate on time, he kept a journal of everything he saw and heard and thus was able to document in unprecedented detail how a musical is actually created. Now, more than thirty years later In 1971, college student Ted Chapin found himself front row center as a production assistant at the creation of one of the greatest Broadway musicals, Follies. Needing college credit to graduate on time, he kept a journal of everything he saw and heard and thus was able to document in unprecedented detail how a musical is actually created. Now, more than thirty years later, he has fashioned an extraordinary chronicle. Follies was created by Stephen Sondheim, Hal Prince, Michael Bennett, and James Goldman - giants in the evolution of the Broadway musical and geniuses at the top of their game. Everything Was Possible takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride, from the uncertainties of casting to drama-filled rehearsals, from the care and feeding of one-time movie and television stars to the pressures of a Boston tryout to the exhilaration of opening night on Broadway. Foreword by long-time NY critic Frank Rich.


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In 1971, college student Ted Chapin found himself front row center as a production assistant at the creation of one of the greatest Broadway musicals, Follies. Needing college credit to graduate on time, he kept a journal of everything he saw and heard and thus was able to document in unprecedented detail how a musical is actually created. Now, more than thirty years later In 1971, college student Ted Chapin found himself front row center as a production assistant at the creation of one of the greatest Broadway musicals, Follies. Needing college credit to graduate on time, he kept a journal of everything he saw and heard and thus was able to document in unprecedented detail how a musical is actually created. Now, more than thirty years later, he has fashioned an extraordinary chronicle. Follies was created by Stephen Sondheim, Hal Prince, Michael Bennett, and James Goldman - giants in the evolution of the Broadway musical and geniuses at the top of their game. Everything Was Possible takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride, from the uncertainties of casting to drama-filled rehearsals, from the care and feeding of one-time movie and television stars to the pressures of a Boston tryout to the exhilaration of opening night on Broadway. Foreword by long-time NY critic Frank Rich.

30 review for Everything Was Possible: The Birth of the Musical Follies

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    Follies holds a special place in my heart because it was the one that got away. I never saw the original, but listened to the (imperfect) cast album obsessively and did see a full production in the 1990's in San Jose. It fell between my two favorite musicals of all time (sorry, Hamilton): Company and Sweeney Todd. All Prince/Sondheim productions. I devoured this book. It could prove daunting to anyone not at least marginally familiar with the forces behind this work of art, and thanks to Ted Cha Follies holds a special place in my heart because it was the one that got away. I never saw the original, but listened to the (imperfect) cast album obsessively and did see a full production in the 1990's in San Jose. It fell between my two favorite musicals of all time (sorry, Hamilton): Company and Sweeney Todd. All Prince/Sondheim productions. I devoured this book. It could prove daunting to anyone not at least marginally familiar with the forces behind this work of art, and thanks to Ted Chapin for holding onto his notebook in which he detailed his experience as a behind-the-scenes gofer, and for providing this personal, in-depth view of the creative process, the pitfalls that went into this most complicated, challenging musical. He credits Prince and Sondheim as being supportive and agreeable to interviews for this book. I remember one occasion when I had a chance to see Follies, but $25 was too steep a price at that time. Ironically, I think of current, far lesser musicals that are demanding and receiving ten times that amount today (not you, Hamilton), and wish I could return much as the ghostly Loveland figures to that time 40 years ago when it would have been possible to see Follies, the original.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rolls

    It's time to come clean. I know this will come as a shock to all of you out there in "Goodreadsland" who look to me, Rolls Andre, as a paragon of virility and male potency; but, I must step out of the shadows of my secret shame and say unequivocally that I am absolutely mad about the musical theater. I'll scream my undying devotion from every rooftop in this dirty old town ‘til my voice is as shredded and worn out as Elaine Stritch's. I am a sucker for show tunes. There I've said it. Now the hea It's time to come clean. I know this will come as a shock to all of you out there in "Goodreadsland" who look to me, Rolls Andre, as a paragon of virility and male potency; but, I must step out of the shadows of my secret shame and say unequivocally that I am absolutely mad about the musical theater. I'll scream my undying devotion from every rooftop in this dirty old town ‘til my voice is as shredded and worn out as Elaine Stritch's. I am a sucker for show tunes. There I've said it. Now the healing can begin. (For the record I also enjoy a warm bubble bath, a chilled bottle of presecco and novels by guys named Evelyn. Scoff if you must philistines!) Any fans of the Broadway musical out there know that Stephen Sondheim is one of the greatest composers and lyricists who ever lived. His groundbreaking (and seat filling) shows include: “Company,” “Into the Woods,” “Sweeny Todd (my favorite musical of all time),” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Pacific Overtures,” “A Little Night Music,” and “Assassins.” Add to this illustrious roster the titles of two shows he “only” wrote lyrics for: “Gypsy” and “West Side Story” and the man’s claim to greatness is all but indisputable. “Follies” stands apart from the other shows previously mentioned by being an artistic triumph but a commercial failure. Though it ran on Broadway for a year it lost every cent invested in it and then some. It was also the victim of an extraordinarily mixed reception by the critics. Some saw it as a harbinger of a new era in musical theater and applauded its many innovations. Others found it an elephantine bore and criticized its chilly book and (to their tin ears) pedestrian score and lyrics. Oddly, time has shown both camps to be in the right. Mr. Chapin’s book is a loving backstage memoir depicting the many birth pangs associated with the creation of this “embarrassment of riches.” At the time he was an undergraduate theater student thrown into the arena with a bevy of battle scarred Broadway veterans clawing their way to a New York opening night for the intoxicating thrill of savoring one more hit. Remarkably his detailed account of the proceedings comes across as incredibly level headed and even handed for so young a writer. He handles the task of chronicling the “who, what, where, why and how” of all the chaos swirling around him like a dyed in the wool newsman and gives you the impression that you are there. To be honest as much as I enjoyed this book I would have appreciated a little more dish on all the backstage bitchiness I know must have gone on. I can’t believe that in a cast of fifty-four (most of them women) there wasn’t even one decent cat fight. All in all though this is recommended to anyone who cares about where the musical theater has been and where it can still go.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Philip

    I saw FOLLIES on April 14, 1971 (the Wednesday matinee), during the second week of its original Broadway run: The Winter Garden Theater, Orchestra, Row C, Seat 13. Yes, I still have my ticket-stub! I thought then - at fourteen years old - that it was the greatest show I'd ever seen on Broadway (and I had seen quite a few by then). Thirty-nine years later, my opinion hasn't changed. This is actually my second reading of Ted Chapin's excellent account of the creation of FOLLIES, from rehearsals to O I saw FOLLIES on April 14, 1971 (the Wednesday matinee), during the second week of its original Broadway run: The Winter Garden Theater, Orchestra, Row C, Seat 13. Yes, I still have my ticket-stub! I thought then - at fourteen years old - that it was the greatest show I'd ever seen on Broadway (and I had seen quite a few by then). Thirty-nine years later, my opinion hasn't changed. This is actually my second reading of Ted Chapin's excellent account of the creation of FOLLIES, from rehearsals to Opening Night (and beyond), it's an up close-and-personal view: a college student at the time, he was the production's 'gofer,' who performed any number of tasks that came up for just about anyone involved in the production, and since he was 'on the scene,' we get a fascinating look at the creative collaborative process that goes into the creation of a show. And the creative collaborators here are formidable - Producer/Director Hal Prince, Choreographer/Co-Director Michael Bennett, Librettist James Goldman, and the man who literally made the show sing, Stephen Sondheim. The 'supporting cast' is huge too, with many names familiar to contemporary theater fans: Harold Hastings, Jonathan Tunick, Florence Klotz, Tharon Musser, Bob Avian, Graciela Danielle. And of course there was that cast: Alexis Smith, Gene Nelson, Dorothy Collins, John McMartin, Yvonne de Carlo, Mary McCarty (who five years later was the original "Matron 'Mama' Morton" in CHICAGO), Ethel Shutta, Fifi D'Orsay (who was bright and bubbly on the several occasions that I met her, but who was a pain in the ass in rehearsals and would positively hate me for listing her after Shutta). I knew very little about FOLLIES before I bought my ticket a month or more before it came to Broadway - I saw that stunning poster, the cast list, and Sondheim's name, and simply knew I had to see it, plain and simple. Chapin kept a journal during the production, since he was actually going to turn the experience into a paper toward his college degree, and it obviously was invaluable in chronicling the show's process, and for who said what to whom. We learn, for instance, how Yvonne de Carlo's solo, "Can That Boy Fox-Trot" was worked and re-worked but couldn't be gotten to work (many of the show's cast actually had difficulty in learning and performing their numbers), so Sondheim wrote a new song. One of Chapin's 'gofer' jobs was to type up changes to the script, and changes to lyrics or lyrics for new songs (this in the days of electric typewriters and carbon paper - there were also many phone calls and a considerable amount of time spent schlepping around between hotels and offices to write down, pick up and deliver copies of songs and script in these pre-email days - imagine this expense at today's gasoline prices!). At one point Sondheim handed Chapin the only copy of the lyrics to the replacement song he'd just completed for "Foxtrot" - Chapin went upstairs and with a sense of amazement typed out the lyrics to "I'm Here," which, with a little bit of tweaking, became "I'm Still Here," a showstopper for de Carlo and one of Sondheim's best-known songs. And would you believe "Losing My Mind" was originally intended for Alexis Smith's character! Chapin got his degree, by the way (and now heads the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization) and decades later we got a fascinating not-to-be-missed account of one of the American Musical Theater's greatest - and most controversial - achievements. Chapin dedicated Everything Was Possible “To the men and women of Follies , 1971.” Well, I feel like I was one of them!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Anika

    Brilliant!! Go out and buy this book IMMEDIATELY!! At full price!!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Caleb Hoyer

    This has been a favorite among theater people, my tribe, for years and years, but I was never really tempted to read it because (shocker!) I don’t actually know the show Follies that well. Well, something finally pushed me over the edge, and I’m so glad. Even though my knowledge of the show isn’t that thorough, this book is a delight, compelling and entertaining from start to finish. It is a thrilling depiction of the creation of a new musical, capturing much of the drama, the fear, the trial-an This has been a favorite among theater people, my tribe, for years and years, but I was never really tempted to read it because (shocker!) I don’t actually know the show Follies that well. Well, something finally pushed me over the edge, and I’m so glad. Even though my knowledge of the show isn’t that thorough, this book is a delight, compelling and entertaining from start to finish. It is a thrilling depiction of the creation of a new musical, capturing much of the drama, the fear, the trial-and-error experimenting, the fun, and the heart. If you’re a theater lover, I daresay it’s a must-read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Okay, this made me super jealous that my high school classmate Bob Higgins saw this show. Chapin kept a diary of his three months working as a production assistant on Follies - 30 years later, he turned it into a book. Great details about the number of changes and rewrites. Fascinating.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Highly recommended account of (as it says on the tin) the birth of "Follies", intriguing both to Sondheim and Follies fans like me and generally those who like to know what happened as a musical got going.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Taylor

    This is arguably the best book about musical theater. Ted Chapin worked as a gopher on Follies and wrote this book based on his experiences of the production. The book really captures the collaborative nature of theater and all of the struggles a production must go through to make it to Broadway. And of course, this production involved Stephen Sondheim, Hal Prince and Michael Bennett. If you like theater this book is a must read. On a side note,Chapin, now the president of the Rodgers & Hammerste This is arguably the best book about musical theater. Ted Chapin worked as a gopher on Follies and wrote this book based on his experiences of the production. The book really captures the collaborative nature of theater and all of the struggles a production must go through to make it to Broadway. And of course, this production involved Stephen Sondheim, Hal Prince and Michael Bennett. If you like theater this book is a must read. On a side note,Chapin, now the president of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, came to one of my classes in college to talk about South Pacific. He's a great speaker - so if you ever get the chance to hear him talk it will definitely be worthwhile.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Abeck01

    Comprehensive telling of the development of the musical Follies, from the minds of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman, through its reinterpretation by the creative genius of director Hal Prince, into one of the most remarkable, landmark musicals in American theater. Chapin explains all the ins and outs of its production history and how it became one of the most underrated, yet most beloved musicals of all time. Prince's production is recalled in vivid detail, and the performances of the original Comprehensive telling of the development of the musical Follies, from the minds of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman, through its reinterpretation by the creative genius of director Hal Prince, into one of the most remarkable, landmark musicals in American theater. Chapin explains all the ins and outs of its production history and how it became one of the most underrated, yet most beloved musicals of all time. Prince's production is recalled in vivid detail, and the performances of the original cast are explored in tender detail.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Brenda Clough

    This is like a dream of working on a Sondheim musical, only it was real! The ultimate wish fulfilment book for Broadway mavens.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Ever since finishing undergrad one of the classes I missed the most was "The History of Broadway" because I could finally put all that nerding out to the test (literally). One embarrassingly low A- later and I was a certified nerd having scratched that itch of wanting to learn more about the Broadway history. Since then I have still kept up to date on the subject mainly through tumblr and generic internet browsing but foolishly never through non fiction. This book has been collecting digital dus Ever since finishing undergrad one of the classes I missed the most was "The History of Broadway" because I could finally put all that nerding out to the test (literally). One embarrassingly low A- later and I was a certified nerd having scratched that itch of wanting to learn more about the Broadway history. Since then I have still kept up to date on the subject mainly through tumblr and generic internet browsing but foolishly never through non fiction. This book has been collecting digital dust on my library’s bibliocommons for-later shelf for a couple years and now that I’ve actually read it I know I will be going back for more Broadway non-fiction. Everything Was Possible isn’t exactly literarily or artistically exciting, it chronicles the original Broadway production of Follies in a detailed manner starting with rehearsals, then out of town and New York previews with publicity shots throughout the book. There are a lot of moving pieces to a new musical so it was challenging in the beginning to learn the the names of everyone associated with the production but it is otherwise a very easy read regardless of your knowledge of the industry. Ted Chapin was clearly a privileged young man to be able to work on this production, even thought it was clearly round the clock work, he was only afforded the opportunity through family ties which was sort of disapointing. Additionally, Follies is a misunderstood show and this book doesn’t tell you how to interpret the show; it gives you some detailed directorial intentions but doesn't begin to theorize. Part of me appreciated this and part of me was disappointed that it didn't help clarify the artistic intentions a little better. All in all, I can think of no better way to get to know a production than through Ted Chapin's story and would recommend this to anyone who likes Follies or musical theatre in general.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Russell Sanders

    Ted Chapin’s Everything Was Possible: The Birth of the Musical Follies is a must-read book. It would appeal to anyone who loves musical theater or theater in general; to Stephen Sondheim aficionados; to those who are awed by the careers and talents of Hal Prince and Michael Bennett; to those who have fond memories of the original stars of the show, Alexis Smith, Dorothy Collins, Gene Nelson, and Yvonne de Carlo; to anyone who wants a primer on creating a show from inception to performance and on Ted Chapin’s Everything Was Possible: The Birth of the Musical Follies is a must-read book. It would appeal to anyone who loves musical theater or theater in general; to Stephen Sondheim aficionados; to those who are awed by the careers and talents of Hal Prince and Michael Bennett; to those who have fond memories of the original stars of the show, Alexis Smith, Dorothy Collins, Gene Nelson, and Yvonne de Carlo; to anyone who wants a primer on creating a show from inception to performance and on to cast album; and, indeed, to anyone who wants to see the creation of a landmark musical through the eyes of someone who was intimately involved, the author Ted Chapin—now head of the Rodgers and Hammerstein organization—who was a college student at the time and a production assistant on this show. Using his personal memories, his diaries, and interviews, Chapin recounts the creative process from beginning to Broadway opening, and, in an afterword, beyond. It is fascinating to see how Follies was put together from a show that was not even completely written when it went into rehearsals to a show that got some glowing reviews, some mixed reviews, and some pans—but entered theater history as a monumental achievement and a valuable member of the pantheon of Broadway shows that made a difference in the theater. We see the ups and downs, the songs that were cut, the writing of new ones, the bickering among the performers, the love among the performers, the insecurities of the performers, and we realize that a Broadway show is a like a family, a family with warts that, in the end, don’t really matter because each member of the family, warts and all, has contributed to something special, flawed or otherwise.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shoshana

    I bought this book when it came out in 2003--I was in college and had already seen two professional productions of Follies: Papermill Playhouse in 1998 and the Roundabout Theatre Company revival in 2001. I already knew all the songs by heart and had performed many of them in high school concerts and recitals. I have always listed Follies in my top tier of favorite musicals. It's a wonder, then, that I waited until now to read Everything was Possible: The Birth of the Musical Follies, which I jus I bought this book when it came out in 2003--I was in college and had already seen two professional productions of Follies: Papermill Playhouse in 1998 and the Roundabout Theatre Company revival in 2001. I already knew all the songs by heart and had performed many of them in high school concerts and recitals. I have always listed Follies in my top tier of favorite musicals. It's a wonder, then, that I waited until now to read Everything was Possible: The Birth of the Musical Follies, which I just finished tonight. But maybe it's appropriate that I read it now, 16 years and 3 more productions later, when my love of Follies had begun to fade. The last time I saw it, the script felt dated and I questioned whether the show was even worth doing without the kind of theater stars that don't really exist anymore. I was nostalgic for my early years of loving this show and feeling its magic, and for those who don't know, Follies is very much about nostalgia and the interplay of the past, present, and future. Even if I never again see Follies as when I saw it in 1998 at Papermill, or see it again at all, this book brought me back to loving it. Ted Chapin infuses a first-hand account, full of the excitement and emotion of experience, with research and fact. As a result, Follies' road to Broadway (and to existence) feels lived-in, like we really are right there along with it, even though he's telling the story from the present, which is now 16 years int the past, and looking back about 30 years prior. I'm glad I finally got myself to read it... before it became one of Ben's "books I'll never read."

  14. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    The WSJ book review had a column on “Songs of the American Century” (Sat/Sun April 7-8, 2018) and I decided to give several of the recommendations a try. My first,Ted Chapin’s “Everything Was Possible,” is a detailed (and I mean that very literally) account of the evolution and staging of the Sondheim/Prince 1971 musical, “Follies.” The show, to me, is a hit and miss affair, so it’s really interesting to read about how much was revised, tweaked, changed, scrapped, reinserted and altered as the s The WSJ book review had a column on “Songs of the American Century” (Sat/Sun April 7-8, 2018) and I decided to give several of the recommendations a try. My first,Ted Chapin’s “Everything Was Possible,” is a detailed (and I mean that very literally) account of the evolution and staging of the Sondheim/Prince 1971 musical, “Follies.” The show, to me, is a hit and miss affair, so it’s really interesting to read about how much was revised, tweaked, changed, scrapped, reinserted and altered as the show moved from conception through rehearsals, to out of town try out and then, finally, on to Broadway, to decidedly mixed reviews. What an incredibly laborious process! It’s kind of a testament to how much one must be devoted to the theater to even make it through this grueling trial. I felt like the minute, incremental details of the book were quite mundane, but somehow, I couldn’t put the book down and stayed up late several nights to finish it. It’s a perfect parallel to the show, which is a mess, but simultaneously, you can’t look away because it’s so honest and moving. There’s a Youtube video "reconstruction" with the original cast members that, for me, was an essential accompaniment to the book. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTD9H...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rudolf IX

    This was an interesting and thoroughly entertaining read. Other than maybe Gypsy, Follies is my absolute favorite musical - who doesn't love seeing a bunch of middle-aged people have a collective mental breakdown underlined with flashily ironic musical numbers? It's amazing, as is the story of how it came to be. But I have to admit, for a book that is constantly held up as the best, or at least one of the best, about musical theatre, this was really just okay. It was limited to only Chapin's pers This was an interesting and thoroughly entertaining read. Other than maybe Gypsy, Follies is my absolute favorite musical - who doesn't love seeing a bunch of middle-aged people have a collective mental breakdown underlined with flashily ironic musical numbers? It's amazing, as is the story of how it came to be. But I have to admit, for a book that is constantly held up as the best, or at least one of the best, about musical theatre, this was really just okay. It was limited to only Chapin's perspective, and while of course that's the whole idea, I really would like to have gotten a more holistic view. The writing was gripping but bland, and I think a few more full-color photographs wouldn't have hurt. For what it is, it is pretty good, but that leads me to ask - is this the best we're going to get?

  16. 5 out of 5

    David

    Ted Chapin's experience as a production assistant for the original production of Follies forms the basis for his narrative of the musical's birth. He has a clear writing style, and it's easy to follow his narrative, even if at times he expects us to juggle 20-30 actors, technicians, creative team members and assorted hangers-on. The book has the expected insider anecdotes, but isn't really a tell-all of the feuds or personalities behind the show. His combined role of PA and student observer of t Ted Chapin's experience as a production assistant for the original production of Follies forms the basis for his narrative of the musical's birth. He has a clear writing style, and it's easy to follow his narrative, even if at times he expects us to juggle 20-30 actors, technicians, creative team members and assorted hangers-on. The book has the expected insider anecdotes, but isn't really a tell-all of the feuds or personalities behind the show. His combined role of PA and student observer of the show comes through in his telling of the tale - a mixture of petty squabbles and analysis of the direction of the show and its significance. I'd definitely recommend it for fans of musical theater.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ian McNair

    When Stephen Sondheim opened his copy of Life and saw a picture of Gloria Swanson standing in the rubble of a theatre in ruins, little did we know that this sowed the seed of inspiration for his monumental musical, Follies. This journal of events records the highs and lows of getting the production to Broadway and not everything went to plan. Yvonne de Carlo was particularly infuriating because she couldn't remember the lyrics for "I'm Still Here". Of course, the show lost money but, thankfully, When Stephen Sondheim opened his copy of Life and saw a picture of Gloria Swanson standing in the rubble of a theatre in ruins, little did we know that this sowed the seed of inspiration for his monumental musical, Follies. This journal of events records the highs and lows of getting the production to Broadway and not everything went to plan. Yvonne de Carlo was particularly infuriating because she couldn't remember the lyrics for "I'm Still Here". Of course, the show lost money but, thankfully, it has gone from strength to strength and the latest National Theatre season was a sellout. A must read for anyone interested in theatre.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Philippa

    A little bogged down with misc details, but generally a good overview of how a musical is dragged into being. Especially interesting given that the creative team was a comprised of some of the most exciting new musical theatre creators in the late 20th century (Hal Prince, Steven Sondheim, Michael Bennett).

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    If you have any interest in how a Broadway musical is born or how the collaborative process works this is a solid read by someone who was able to observe the creation of just such a thing first hand.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Toppins

    I skimmed this book while I was rehearsing Follies. I particularly liked reading about the development of the numbers I sang. This book probably isn't for everyone, but I recommend it for Sondheim fans.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    I definitely would have enjoyed this book more if I were more familiar with Follies. As it stands, I did enjoy the fascinating portraits of Hal Prince, Stephen Sondheim, and Michael Bennett at work.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Yours Truly

    Yes, this book is as wonderful as everyone says it is. Particularly special to read such a detailed rehearsal account when there are no rehearsals currently happening, even disregarding the “death of the theatre” themes presented in Follies and elaborated on in this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    B Rardin

    Just like being there! The book is filled with so much detail it’s like really being there. If anyone wants to know what it takes to put together a broadway show - read this! I’ve worked on Broadway and this captures every detail. Loved it!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    It's been some years since I read this book, and I gave away my hardback copy of it. But I know I relished every page, being a die-hard Stephen J. Sondheim fan, who has been in love with FOLLIES since spring of 1971, when, at 13, I first saw the cover of Time Magazine that featured Alexis Smith kicking her leg, clad in a bright red flapper dress, and then devoured the article and further photos inside. Thank goodness Ted Chapin kept such a detailed record of his time as a young minion, at the be It's been some years since I read this book, and I gave away my hardback copy of it. But I know I relished every page, being a die-hard Stephen J. Sondheim fan, who has been in love with FOLLIES since spring of 1971, when, at 13, I first saw the cover of Time Magazine that featured Alexis Smith kicking her leg, clad in a bright red flapper dress, and then devoured the article and further photos inside. Thank goodness Ted Chapin kept such a detailed record of his time as a young minion, at the beck and call of geniuses, artists and legends, as they went through the chaotic process of creating the flawed and glorious show that FOLLIES became. As others have remarked, there could have happily been more backstage dish, but this book is truly a blessing to anyone who cares about one of the few great art forms that the USA can lay claim to creating.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sammy

    Ah, what a joy to read! "Follies" was a landmark musical upon release in 1971, coming hot on the heels of - and besting - Sondheim's first great work, "Company". Done well, it's a haunting examination of ageing, the demise of 'classic' culture, and how our nostalgia conflicts with a culture obsessed with modernity and youth. By stroke of good luck, Ted Chapin was able to witness the creation of this musical from first rehearsal to opening night. This book possesses a wealth of vignettes which are Ah, what a joy to read! "Follies" was a landmark musical upon release in 1971, coming hot on the heels of - and besting - Sondheim's first great work, "Company". Done well, it's a haunting examination of ageing, the demise of 'classic' culture, and how our nostalgia conflicts with a culture obsessed with modernity and youth. By stroke of good luck, Ted Chapin was able to witness the creation of this musical from first rehearsal to opening night. This book possesses a wealth of vignettes which are fascinating, not just to people who know Sondheim and "Follies", but to anyone who is interested in how a new work of theatre is created. Chapin bears witness to early issues with script, set, costumes, choreography and vision. He recalls the painfully awkward consequences when a couple of contracted performers are let go. He walks us through the tense period of dress rehearsals, Boston previews, and the transition to Broadway. And, between the director/choreographer debates, he captures what must surely be the most fascinating element of this show - the inevitable comparisons between the characters (a bunch of ageing former stars who are now out of place in this world), and the cast members (exactly the same thing). Of course, it's not perfect. Chapin's prose style is adequate and descriptive, but nothing special. And - although this isn't his fault - he can only write about what he witnessed. As a result, for instance, we don't really get much insight into the casting process, and most importantly very little insight into Stephen Sondheim's own creative process. But of course, that's the subject for other books. Anyone who knows "Follies" is bound to be delighted by this first-hand account of the production. And even if you don't, there is plenty in here to satisfy any theatregoer about the highs and lows of producing a new work.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Last week I saw a production of Follies at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. 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 & lyri Last week I saw a production of Follies at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. 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.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Neil

    Ted Chapin either had unique access to many levels of a Broadway show in development, or he fills in the gaps very gracefully. Either way, he produced a marvelous and rather unusual book. And no matter what you think of it (some love it, some find it disjointed, others say too depressing), I think you have to admit that Follies is an important show, one worthy of this kind of attention. The story that emerges is a great depiction of all the kinds of late changes that happen when a show is out of Ted Chapin either had unique access to many levels of a Broadway show in development, or he fills in the gaps very gracefully. Either way, he produced a marvelous and rather unusual book. And no matter what you think of it (some love it, some find it disjointed, others say too depressing), I think you have to admit that Follies is an important show, one worthy of this kind of attention. The story that emerges is a great depiction of all the kinds of late changes that happen when a show is out of town, then in previews. (As an aside, I watched the last episode of the first season of Smash a couple of nights ago, which treated the same subject falsely throughout. What can you say? It's television). Anyway, if you read this, you'll get details about set construction and lighting, about casting (and sometimes firing) actors, about the rehearsal process, about designing the costumes, staging and orchestrating the songs, about how songs get changed, and so on. I do a lot of community theater, but I was fascinated by the details of how things work in a Broadway show (at least in 1971). And of course there are plenty of anecdotes about Sondheim, Hal Prince, and Michael Bennett, which make the book worth reading on their own. The actors from this production, given the subject matter of aging showgirls and their husbands returning to their home theatre before it is demolished, are mostly dead, gone, and in most cases forgotten, but their stories are told in a compelling way too. So in short, if you like musical theater, you need to read this book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    auntie

    Is this my favourite Sondheim show? They're all my favourite. It holds a special place in my heart, however, and I am a curator of all of the productions. I don't know a body of music which moves me as much as this one particular volume does. I CANNOT BEELEEVE i never KNEW the book existed ! I was RANDOMLY changing channels one Saturday and Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman were performing their American Songbook at the NJPAC on PBS, moderated by Ted Chapin, President and Executive Director of Rodg Is this my favourite Sondheim show? They're all my favourite. It holds a special place in my heart, however, and I am a curator of all of the productions. I don't know a body of music which moves me as much as this one particular volume does. I CANNOT BEELEEVE i never KNEW the book existed ! I was RANDOMLY changing channels one Saturday and Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman were performing their American Songbook at the NJPAC on PBS, moderated by Ted Chapin, President and Executive Director of Rodgers & Hammerstein: An Imagem Company, and he asked Scott about the creation and life of HAIRSPRAY. Scott said, someone should write a book about creating a musical, WAIT ! YOU WROTE THE ULTIMATE book on creating a musical ! and I ran to find out what it was and praise GOD ! it was about FOLLIES ! This is one of THEE MOST DELICIOUS reads EVAH ! for anyone interested in Broadway, Old Hollywood, the brilliance of our past, before mediocrity ruled the world, and how amazing Stephen Sondheim really is. I mean, there are SO many classics in this one musical and to think, it wasn't until the last days of previews when he came in and was like, Oh, I just wrote I'M STILL HERE, why don't we try this ... Amazeballs. I'll be reading this over and over and over again. What a thrill, what a treat. and what a miracle someone was there to record it all ... "I see it all. It's like a movie in my head that play and plays. It isn't just the bad things I remember It's the whole damned show.>

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    "Lord knows at least I was there. And I'm here. I'm still here. Look who's here!" (insane applause.) Sadly, I was not there when the original production of Follies marked the end of what many consider the Golden Age of the Broadway musical. I recoil at such dramatic declarations, and yet...there is some truth to them. Ted Chapin was lucky enough to be a gofer/production assistant and "observer" during the rehearsal process of Follies, and thirty years later he offers this classy but juicy memoir "Lord knows at least I was there. And I'm here. I'm still here. Look who's here!" (insane applause.) Sadly, I was not there when the original production of Follies marked the end of what many consider the Golden Age of the Broadway musical. I recoil at such dramatic declarations, and yet...there is some truth to them. Ted Chapin was lucky enough to be a gofer/production assistant and "observer" during the rehearsal process of Follies, and thirty years later he offers this classy but juicy memoir about his experiences. Time and distance add weight to what was once a journal-turned-paper (he was a junior in college at the time), and I relished the great stories in this book from start to finish. I only wish Chapin could have written this book *after* the recent (Feb 07) concert version at City Center, which was mind-blowing. I'd love to know what he thought of it!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    Mr. Chapin, an unabashed fan of all things show biz that work, went back to the diaries he kept when he was an assistant to the producer/intern (all sorts of go-fer) for the original production of Follies in 1970. His account of the rehearsal period shows how the "inevitable" look and feel of a Broadway show often are a result of lucky accidents or "JUST DO SOMETHING!" desperation. ("I'm Still Here", one of Sondheim's best, quickly replaced a song that never worked in the Boston tryouts.) He's gr Mr. Chapin, an unabashed fan of all things show biz that work, went back to the diaries he kept when he was an assistant to the producer/intern (all sorts of go-fer) for the original production of Follies in 1970. His account of the rehearsal period shows how the "inevitable" look and feel of a Broadway show often are a result of lucky accidents or "JUST DO SOMETHING!" desperation. ("I'm Still Here", one of Sondheim's best, quickly replaced a song that never worked in the Boston tryouts.) He's gracious in his memories of the stars and featured players, who certainly were a bouquet of egos in various stages of bloom. Even if you've never seen Follies performed, this story of how Broadway shows get put together will hold your interest.

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