The humorist cowboy Will Rogers was known for quipping that he never met a man he didn’t like. I would hazard that every man or woman who attends Goodspeed Musical’s latest offering “The Will Rogers Follies” would state the same in reverse. This stage and motion picture star, vaudeville performer, rope twirler, newspaper columnist and social commentator was hard not to like. Will Rogers epitomized friendship, homespun humor and common sense and displayed a folksy approach to life that appealed to the common man.
Until Thursday, June 21, Goodspeed in East Haddam will offer a joyful look into the life of this Oklahoma boy who considered himself a Cherokee Indian and gave the world a unique perspective and philosophy of politics, the government and every day life.
David Lutken is doing a sterling silver job of creating Rogers, with just the right blend of humility and starch, aman who knew who he was and was proud of it. “The Will Rogers Follies a life in revue” is the brainchild of Peter Stone for book, Cy Coleman for music and Betty Comden and Adolf Green for lyrics. It won five Tony Awards.
The show is staged like a production of the Ziegfeld Follies with big production numbers alternating with personal anecdotes by Will and a few amazing rope tricks swirled in and out. His meeting and marriage to his bride Betty, played by a lovely and supportive Catherine Walker and adorable children (Ben Stone-Zelman, Riley Briggs, Brendan Reilly Harris and Nathan Horne) are displayed on the colorful canvas of Will’s life.
His father Clem is brought to life by David Garrison in all his contrary and opinionated style. Brooke Lacy plays a Ziegfeld favorite with flair and a kick of sass while the ever present character of Wiley Post looms large courtesy of Dewey Caddell, the pilot of the plane that takes both men to their death in Alaska in 1935. James Naughton is the distinctive voice of Flo Ziegfeld.
Good production numbers like “Will-a-Mania,” “Give a Man Enough Rope,” and “Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like” help to salute this man of the people, who was even asked to run for president. The glitz and glamour of showgirls star throughout, courtesy of Kelli Barclay’s choreography and ilona Somogyi’s furry and feathered costumes. Don Stephenson directs this sparkling tribute to one of America’s cherished sons.
For tickets ($29 and up), call Goodspeed Musicals, 6 Main Street, East Haddam at 860-873-8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org. Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (with select shows at 2 p.m.), Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. (with select shows at 6:30 p.m.).
Come and let David Lutken introduce you to a man mighty in words and personality, one who speaks his mind and wins hearts with his wisdom and wit.