The Will Rogers Follies is a show about Will Rogers — an unique American, who, though he died in 1935, remains a beloved figure remembered for his humor, his wisdom, and his just plain common sense. At the heart of his populist philosophy was his most famous statement: “I never met a man I didn’t like.” Rogers became the biggest, most popular, and highest paid star of every existing medium of his time — stage, screen, radio, newspapers, and public appearances. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that he was the greatest star this country has ever produced.
— Peter Stone, 1994
Will Rogers is famous for saying “I never met a man I didn’t like,” and anyone who has ever seen or performed in WILL ROGERS FOLLIES will agree that there has never been a man-or woman-who did not like it.
Subtitled “A Life In Revue,” WILL ROGERS stands out among musicals because of the magic of its protagonist. Rare is the man who transcends decades and rises to the level of legend. Will Rogers does this not only because of his accomplishments, but because of his philosophy, which espouses respect and confidence in the goodness of his fellowman.
The curtain rises on a Follies-style tribute to the man whose daily newspaper column sent America on its way each morning with a smile on its face. In fact Will was a multimedia sensation, performing a weekly radio talk show as well as starring in motion pictures.
Between rope tricks which entertain the audience while the show girls are changing their costumes for The Follies, Will soothes us with his old-fashioned common sense. The songs Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like and Give a Man Enough Rope are parables set to music.
Now it’s time to get to know Will, his friends and family. Will introduces us to the aviator Wiley Post, to his six sisters, and to his father Clem. Born to parents who were part Cherokee, Will learned early on to be proud of his heritage.
When Will turned nineteen, he set off, despite his father’s protests, to be a cowboy down in Argentina. It was at the train depot that Will first laid eyes on Betty Blake, the woman who would become his wife. But how theatrical is that? Not enough, apparently, because Mr. Ziegfeld quickly rewrites history and lowers Betty romantically from the Moon to recreate her first meeting with Will!
Once married Will tours the country performing his routine until the day his big break arrives, and he is offered a part in Florenz Ziegfeld’s Follies. After six fabulous seasons, Will is called to Hollywood to perform on the silver screen.
After much success and a run for President in 1928, Will assesses his life. It is time to spend more time at home. Nonetheless, Will is called on to soothe the nation’s jitters after the stock market crash. It seems that his straight talk and simple truths create quite an impact on the nation. You will find that your audience responds in much the same way.
When Wiley Post and Will lose their lives during a flying adventure in Alaska, the nation mourns its lost friend. The musical version, however, is an upbeat celebration of this folk hero who made the world “a whole lot better place” than it was before he entered it.
Other delightful musical numbers include Will-a-Mania, It’s a Boy, My Unknown Someone, Presents for Mrs. Rogers and Let’s Go Flying.
THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES
A Life In Revue
Book by Music Composed and Arranged by Lyrics by
Peter Stone Cy Coleman Betty Comden & Adolph Green
Original New York Production Directed and Choreographed by
Inspired by the words of Will and Betty Rogers
Originally produced on Broadway by
Martin Richards, Sam Crothers, James M. Nederlander
Stewart F. Lane and Max Weitzenhofer
in association with Japan Satellite Broadcasting, Inc.
The size of the billing given to the authors shall be the same and shall in no event be less than fifty percent (50%) of the type size used for the title of the play, and the size of the billing given to the original Broadway producer and Will and Betty Rogers shall in no event be less than twenty five percent (25%) of the type size used for the title of the play. No billing shall appear in type larger or more prominently than the billing to the authors, except for the title of the play and star(s) of the play billed above the title. The billing for the authors shall appear immediately following the title of the play. In the programs, the credits shall appear on the title page thereof.
The title page of the program shall contain the following announcement in type size at least one-half the size of the authors’ credits:
THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES
is presented by arrangement with
MusicScope & Stage Musicals Ltd. of New York
1 Reed I: Piccolo, Flute, Clarinet & Alto Sax
1 Reed II: Piccolo, Flute, Clarinet & Alto Sax
1 Reed III: Flute, Clarinet, Oboe (or Clarinet) and English Horn (or Clarinet)
1 Reed IV: Flute, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet &Tenor Sax
1 Reed V: Bass Clarinet, Baritone Sax, Bassoon, (or Bass Clarinet) and Eb Contrabass Clarinet, (or Bass Clarinet)
1 Trumpet I & II (both double on Flugelhorn)
1 Trumpet III (doubling Flugelhorn)
1 Trombone I (Tenor) (doubling Kazoo)
1 Trombone II (Tenor)
1 Trombone III (Bass, doubling Tuba)
1 Bass (Acoustic & Electric)
2 Percussion I & II:
Timpani (two pedal drums)
African Bell Tree
Glass Wind Chimes
Bongo Drums (mounted)
Gran Cassa/Piatti Combo
Train Whistle (highly amplified)
Gun Shot (SFX)
Trap Drum Set:
Floor Tom Tom
Wood Blocks (several sizes)
1 Guitar I (Acoustic, Electric, Pedal Steel Guitar, Dobro & Banjo)
1 Guitar II (Acoustic, Electric, Banjo & Country Fiddle)
1 Keyboard I Piano
1 Keyboard II Synthesizer (Celeste, Harp, Accordion, Harmonica, etc.)
1 Keyboard III Synthesizer (principally Strings)
Piano-Conductor’s Score sent with rehearsal material.
Ziegfeld’s Favorite (A beautiful chorus girl)
Wiley Post (Aeroplane pilot)
Clem Rogers (Will’s father)
Will’s Six Sisters (also) Betty’s Six Sisters
(Played by a sextet from the sixteen Ziegfeld Girls of the Chorus: Cora, Anna, Waite,
Theda, Virginia and Zulecki
Florenz Ziegfeld’s Voice (Off stage)
Four Cowboys (Male quartet from the Chorus)
Stage Manager (Peter)
Betty Blake (Will’s wife)
The Four Rogers Children (Will Junior, Mary, James & Freddy)
Off-Stage Announcer (Theatre)
Roper (Professional rope spinner)
Hastings (Will’s butler – played by Clem)
Ranch Pianist (Played by Clem)
Stage Hands and Wardrobe People (Actual, non-speaking)
Announcer’s Voice (Radio – off stage)
Chorus (Girls & Boys)
THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES opened on Broadway, May 1, 1991 and played for 981 performances at the Palace Theatre starring Keith Carradine and Paul Ukena, Jr.
6 Tony Awards for Musical, Score, Director, Choreographer, Costume Designer and Lighting Designer
3 Drama Desk Awards for Musical, Music and Choreography
The New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical