Some California kick in LA-bound "Follies"

December 6, 2011

Although the Kennedy Center’s highly regarded revival of “Follies” closes on Broadway on Jan. 22 after a 4 ½-month run, the production isn’t going into retirement just yet.

Los Angeles’s Center Theatre Group, the nonprofit organization that runs the Ahmanson Theatre, announced Tuesday that the Broadway production will be re-mounted there from May 3 to June 9.

The revival of the revival is unusual, in that the normal life cycle of a Broadway show ends with its closing performance. Productions that make their way to the road tend to do so with mostly new casts. But Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center, where “Follies” began in May, said that while no casting has been confirmed, the hope is that many of the Broadway cast members will re-up for the monthlong Los Angeles engagement.

The $7.3 million revival by Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman, directed by Eric Schaeffer and starring Bernadette Peters, Jan Maxwell, Elaine Paige, Ron Raines, Danny Burstein, Terri White and Jayne Houdyshell, was considered a risk for Broadway, given its fairly dark view of marriage and the sardonic light it casts on the lives of a group of ex-Follies girls, gathered for a reunion in a theater that’s about to be demolished. In multiple mountings on Broadway the critically admired show has never been a financial success.

And while the Kennedy Center production had an exceptionally strong box-office start after the mostly favorable reviews came out, ticket sales at the Marquis Theatre have trailed off in recent weeks. During the week ending Dec. 4, the show filled only 47 percent of the available seats, with receipts of about $668,000.

“It’s sold better than I expected,” Kaiser said. “We will get not all of our money back, but a big chunk of our money back, and that’s a big surprise for us.”

Kaiser said the Kennedy Center — the show’s lead producer on Broadway — has been in talks for some time with Center Theatre Group about the Los Angeles visit. An opening had occurred in that company’s schedule after plans were scuttled for a revival of “Funny Girl,” starring Lauren Ambrose and Bobby Cannavale, that was supposed to try out in Los Angeles before heading to Broadway.

The Kennedy Center receives a “tour fee” for the production, Kaiser added, but Center Theatre Group will serve as the show’s producer there.

Peter Marks joined the Washington Post as its chief theater critic in 2002. Prior to that he worked for nine years at the New York Times, on the culture, metropolitan and national desks, and spent about four years as its off-Broadway drama critic.
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