Show History



In an interview with James Lipton, Stephen Sondheim discussed the genesis of Follies:

"I went to Jim Goldman, a friend and a playwright I admire, and asked him if he had any ideas for musicals. He'd always wanted to write a play about reunions, he said, and he'd recently picked up a newspaper clipping about the Ziegfeld Girls annual reunion. We thought that might be the basis of a show. It took four years to write not steadily. We wrote it first as a murder mystery – not a mystery, that's not quite right – but a murder piece. It was about four people, two couples who had been emotionally involved with each other a long time ago and who thought their lives had been damaged because of it. The notion was that one of them was going to murder one of the others, and the suspense, so to speak, was who's going to kill whom. Every time we would do a draft, the atmosphere for the first few minutes would be fine, but then as soon as the plot came in it would start to get a little ratchety. So we decided to delay the plot, maybe for fifteen minutes. Again it started to get ratchety, so we delayed it for twenty-five. Finally, it struck us that maybe there shouldn't be any plot at all, that it should be all atmosphere. That is, in fact, what it turned out to be. There's minimal plot. It all takes place during a party. It's about people getting drunk and their old emotions surging to the surface and interconnecting... all in the atmosphere of the Ziegfeld Follies. What it really is about is the loss of innocence not only among the characters but in America between the wars, which the Follies, I think, represented."


Follies opened on April 4, 1971, at the historic Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway. It marked the second director/author collaboration between Stephen Sondheim and Harold Prince. Rising star, Michael Bennett, who previously assisted the pair, served as co-director of the show. Its star-packed original cast included Alexis Smith, Dorothy Collins, Gene Nelson, John McMartin and Graciela Daniele. The creative team made the unusual choice of not having an intermission in the original Broadway staging, although an intermission was later added. The original Broadway production closed on July 1, 1972, after 522 performances.

In July of 1972, Follies was produced at The Muny in St. Louis, Missouri, and then transferred to the Shubert Theatre in Century City, California. The production was directed by Hal Prince and starred Dorothy Collins, Alexis Smith, John McMartin, Gene Nelson and Yvonne De Carlo.

A staged concert was performed at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center on September 6, and 7, 1985. The concert starred Barbara Cook, Mandy Patinkin and Lee Remick, and featured Carol Burnett, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Elaine Stritch, Phyllis Newman, Jim Walton, Howard McGillin, Liz Callaway and Daisy Prince. "Follies in Concert," a televised documentary about the making of the concert, was later released on video and DVD.

Follies eventually played the West End at the Shaftesbury Theatre from July 21, 1987, until February 4, 1989, for 644 performances. The show was produced by Cameron Mackintosh. A production was also mounted at London's Royal Festival Hall as a limited engagement. It officially opened on August 6, 2002, and closed on August 31, 2002.

A Broadway revival of Follies opened at the Belasco Theatre on April 5, 2001, and closed on July 14, 2001, after 117 performances and 32 previews. New York City Center's Encores! "Great American Musicals in Concert" series featured Follies as its 40th production for six performances in February 2007 in a sold out semi-staged concert. The cast starred Donna Murphy, Victoria Clark, Victor Garber and Michael McGrath. This production used the original text and the "Loveland" lyrics that were performed in the 1987 London production.

The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts' production of Follies at the Eisenhower Theatre began previews on May 7, 2011, with an official opening on May 21, and closed on June 19, 2011. The cast included Bernadette Peters as Sally, Jan Maxwell as Phyllis, Elaine Paige as Carlotta, Linda Lavin as Hattie, Ron Raines as Ben and Danny Burstein as Buddy.


  • Harold Prince has won more Tony Awards than anyone else (twenty): eight for directing, eight for producing, two as producer of the year's Best Musical and two special Tony Awards.
  • The Broadway production required no less than two directors, Harold Prince and Michael Bennett. Follies represents the only time that either shared directorial credit.

  • The first draft of Follies was a murder mystery entitled The Girls Upstairs.