Kennedy Center’s “Follies” is Broadway-bound

For the nostalgic ex-showgirls of the Kennedy Center’s “Follies,” there are more Broadway memories to be made. The center revealed Wednesday that its $7.3 million production will move this summer to a Broadway theater in the heart of Times Square.

The dates have not been firmed up, but Michael M. Kaiser, the Kennedy Center’s president, said that the Marquis Theatre, on Broadway between West 45th and West 46th streets, has been secured for the limited engagement, beginning midsummer and, depending on the strength of ticket sales, running possibly into the winter.

Pronouncing himself “ecstatic” at the development, Kaiser said that the 41-member cast of “Follies,” which includes Bernadette Peters, Jan Maxwell, Linda Lavin, Elaine Paige, Danny Burstein and Ron Raines, was being informed of the plans for the transfer Wednesday afternoon. No casting has been finalized, but center officials expect the majority of the actors to follow the show to New York.

The Broadway move for the revival of the 1971 Stephen Sondheim-James Goldman musical — directed by Signature Theatre’s Eric Schaeffer and choreographed by Warren Carlyle — is the second transfer of a Kennedy Center musical to New York in two years; a revival of “Ragtime” moved from the center to Broadway in November 2009.

In addition, a revival of Terrence McNally’s “Master Class” with Tyne Daly, produced by the center last year as part of a festival of McNally’s plays, is being mounted on Broadway this summer by the Manhattan Theatre Club.

The center’s experience with “Ragtime” suggests that the trip up Interstate 95 can be a treacherous one. The $8.5 million “Ragtime” earned mixed reviews in New York and disappointingly closed after only 65 performances.

“Follies” has received similarly mixed notices, but it has the advantage of several big names, particularly that of the Tony-winning Peters, long associated with the musicals of Sondheim. The center was also encouraged by the robust ticket sales for the show, whose 50-performance run began May 7 in the Eisenhower Theater and is scheduled to close there Sunday.

According to Kaiser, “Follies” — the story of the emotional turmoil that is stirred by the reunion in a dilapidated theater of onetime follies girls — has taken in $5.1 million at the box office and will have played to 95 percent of capacity. Sluggish sales for the run’s Wednesday matinees — unorthodox on the schedules of Washington productions — account for that absent 5 percent.

The securing of the Marquis Theatre had occurred only recently, so many details of the engagement still have to be worked out, Kaiser said. That includes which producers will be the center’s partners in the multimillion-dollar venture. A group of Broadway producers has already expressed “strong interest” in the show, he added.

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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