The Will Rogers Follies

Despite the baffling irrelevance of its subject matter — all-but-universally-forgotten cowboy humorist Will Rogers and his association with the Ziegfeld Follies — the stage version of this show evidently simulates an old-fashioned Broadway-like experience so well that it earned this year’s Tony award for Best Musical. But shorn of the spectacle, dancing, and babes, The Will Rogers Follies is a tough listen. Broadway veteran Cy Coleman’s score is slick textbook hackery, a collection of generic ballads, decorative folksiness, and brassy dance instrumentals whose basic sound and sensibility don’t summon up either the real Rogers-Ziegfeld era (the late teens and ’20s), or even a ’90s take on it; weirdly, the score is more like an ultrasquare ‘60s version. Both music and lyrics (by one-time semi-greats Betty Comden and Adolph Green) make frequent efforts to be tongue-in-cheek, but not even the wry presence of Keith Carradine as Rogers can mask the fact that this score isn’t clever retro but authentic hokum. D

The Will Rogers Follies
  • Music