note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Beverly Creasey
Reviewed by Beverly Creasey
There's nothing like the thuderous sound of fifty tapping feet. If you love tap extravaganzas like "42nd Street" then the Wheelock Family Theatre is the place to go tjhis month. Their exhuberant "Will Rogers' Follies" is just the tonic for these serious times.
Director Jane Staab has done away with the cheezier elements of the Broadway version, making the Wheelock's "Follies" a sweet, downhome celebration of good folks and good cheer. The chief reason "Follies" works so well is Scott Evan Davis as Rogers. Davis gets the aw-shucks, earnest charm of the great American humorist just right...and can he sing! That abashed glee comes right through the singing. You have to go some to encourage the audience to applaud for you like a ham and make us love every minute of it.
The second reason this "Follies" works is Merle Perkins as the gorgeous card-holding Ziegfeld girl. Perkins shows plenty of leg but in Staab's production you know it's all tongue-in-cheek. Perkins just radiates joy and it's darned infectious.
Chip Phillips gives Will's Pa the old vaudevillian elbow and it's a treat to see Phillips kick up his heels. Ditty when Eileen Nugent gets a sizzling blues barn burner. Musical Director Jonathan Goldberg makes every song jump out at ya and what fun they all have in production numbers like the slap dance. Wheelock even has leading men like Brent Reno and Dan Bolton strutting as cowboys.
I had reservations about the Broadway version, but not about Wheelock's foot-stompin' lovefest. From Marian Piro's dazzling costumes to Laurel Stachowicz' spectacular choreographt\y, this "Follies" makes a life, as Will would say. He-Haw! Don't miss out now, 'ya hear.