Thursday, May 31, 2018

CT Theater Review: The Will Rogers Follies -- Goodspeed

David M. Lutken. Photo: Diane Sobolewski
The Will Rogers Follies: A Life in Review
Book by Peter Stone
Music Composed and Arranged by Cy Coleman
Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Directed by Don Stephenson
Choreographed by Kelli Barclay
Goodspeed Opera House
Through June 21

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
It's a light-hearted romp through the thoughts and musings of Will Rogers (the multi-talented David M Lutken, who delighted here in Connecticut and Off-Broadway in Woody Sez.)

This show, which offers some insight in to the entertainer's life, including his marriage to Betty Blake (Catherine Walker) opened on Broadway in 1991 and features music by Cy Coleman, Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and a book by Peter Stone. The Zigfeld Follies provide the backdrop (designed by Walt Spangler) for the story as well as costuming by Ilona Somogyi and Choreography by Kelli Barclay, who provides lots of tap dancing..

What Are the Highlights?
Lutken is always a delight. He's completely likable and entertains with his soft, comforting voice, often accompanying himself on any number of instruments. He and Walker have good rapport. Rogers quotes are projected (design by Michael Clark) and the Lighting Design by Rob Denton is superb.One number with moonlight and starlight also offers spotlights on characters and colors to help set the mood. Well done!

What Are the Lowlights?
Besides a draggy pace, the material seems dated. Even though Will comments on newspaper headlines and tell s us "nothing can hurt more than telling the truth," somehow the dialogue doesn't feel contemporary and jokes fall flat. Political digs don't rally the audience. Lutken manages to carry the show, however, sometimes chiding the audience for not getting a joke right away. Don Stephenson's staging seems to want to over compensate.

More Information:
The Will Rogers Follies plays at Goodspeed's Opera House,  6 Main Street, East Haddam, CT, through June 21. Performances are Wednesday at 2 and 7:30 pm; Thursday at 7:30 pm (with select performances at 2pm); Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 3 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm (with select performances at 6:30 pm). Tickets: goodspeed.org; 860.873.8668.

Additional casting:
David Garrison (Clem Rogers), Brooke Lacy (Ziegfeld’s Favorite), Dewey Caddell (Wiley Post),
Ben Stone-Zelman (Will Rogers Jr.), Riley Briggs (Mary Rogers), Brendan Reilly Harris (Jimmy Rogers), Nathan Horne (Freddy Rogers), James Naughton (Voice of Ziegfeld)
Ensemble: Michael Biren; Aaron Burr; Sarah Fagan; Kaitlyn Frank; Brad Frenette; Emily Jeanne Phillips; Kelly Sheehan; Karilyn Ashley Surratt; Caitlin Wilayto; Borris York; Mallory Davis;
Patrick Heffernan

Additional Credits:
Sound Designer: Jay Hilton; Music Director: Michael O’Flaherty; Assistant Music Director: William J. Thomas; Orchestrations: Dan DeLange



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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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