Monday, July 18, 2011

Ziegfeld Follies Premiere in NYC 1907

In July of 1907, Florenz Ziegfeld opened the doors to the first public showing of his Follies of 1907 in the rooftop garden of the New York Theatre. The shows were known for their elaborate costumes, beautiful chorus girls, and variety acts that helped catapult many stage actors into super stardom from the beginning through the late 1930s. Grace LaRue, Emma Carus, Harry Watson, Helen Broderick and The Anna Held Girls were some of the original players.

A little about "Follies of 1907" from Ziegfeld 101 by John Kenrick:
Subtitled "Just One of Those Things in Thirteen Acts," this $13,000 rooftop production was meant for a limited summer run. Although Ziegfeld conceived and mounted the show, the actual producers were Klaw and Erlanger, who paid Ziegfeld $200 a week for his "managerial" services. The script involved Capt. John Smith and Pocohontas traveling through time to visit the sights and celebrities of modern New York City. Skits gently spoofed current figures (Teddy Roosevelt, Victor Herbert, etc.) and the score included such forgettable songs as "In the Surf," "The Ju-Jitsu Waltz" and "I Oughtn't to Auto Any More." Almost every scene provided excuses to showcase pretty chorines in handsome but revealing costumes. At one point, Ziegfeld marched his girls into the aisles banging on drums, allowing patrons a close look at their charms. After the initial run, this production moved to Broadway's Lyric Theatre for two additional weeks, toured for two months, had a week long return run at the Grand Opera House on West 23rd Street, then spent a final month in Philadelphia.  This success was extraordinary for what was meant to be a summer rooftop diversion.

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