Follies and stuff

Last Thursday Mr. Adult Beginner and I were way up in the balcony at the Ahmandson Theater to see Follies.
I know, Gentle Reader, you’re thinking, “But why would they do that?! Musical Theater sucks!”
And you’re right Gentle Reader, except that this one in particular is one that Mr. Adult Beginner actually likes and I was willing to go along and see what doesn’t suck about it.
Here’s how he describes Follies: “The concept exceeds the music. The music far exceeds the book. The book is lame.”
He also describes it this way: “The music encapsulates the vaudeville theater tradition of the entire twentieth century. The book is two couples fighting tediously.”
Right?
You’re totally sold now too, aren’t you?
So anyway we went to Follies, and turned out I really did like everything about it except the four main characters, and as far as musical theater reviews from the Adult Beginner go, that is a Ringing Endorsement.
So, watching it, I got to thinking about how neat it is to see performers who can dance well and also sing and act, and how that whole Triple Threat thing seems to be mostly a thing of the past, like something olde time Hollywood movie starlets would work hard to be whereas nowadays things seemed very specialized: actors act, singers sing, dancers dance, and some can do all three but they’re pretty much gonna be best at one thing and ok at the other things.
Seems like today’s equivalent of the Triple Threat might be Reality Show, Perfume, Clothing Line.
And then I was thinking about how in some of those old movie musicals you see huge singing dancing numbers with tons of girls en pointe, and, like, how cool that casting call would’ve been and how that probably doesn’t happen anymore either, like, if you want a bunch of girls en pointe in your movie you hire a company, like they did with Black Swan, but you certainly don’t ask them to act.
And then I was thinking about how part of that must be that back during that big movie musical golden age lots of girls just took pointe, maybe it was part of a well-rounded young lady’s education, it wasn’t just a twelve-year-old’s whim, it was a viable job skill even for girls not planning to go pro.
Which reminded me of this part in Allegra Kent’s autobio Once a Dancer… where she mentions that in the early days of the New York City Ballet when she was a baby ballerina coming up through the ranks and catching Ballanchine’s choreographic eye, there were girls in the company who weren’t particularly into dance. Like, it was just a job. Like, they might as well have been shop girls.
Kinda blows my mind considering how each of those positions in the company is so hard fought and won now.

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About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
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5 Responses to Follies and stuff

  1. Janet says:

    I’ve wondered about all of the girls on pointe in the old Hollywood musicals, too. Where did they come from? How could all of these girls afford pointe shoes and all of the ballet lessons during the 30’s?
    I wonder how the dancers Allegra Kent wrote about could possibly keep up with Balanchine if they “wern’t really into dance”??? I am sure that there were some interested ballet dancers waiting in the wings for a job.
    Maybe someone knows the answers.
    I hope you are feeling well, and any ballet withdrawal symptoms are mild.

    • I know, it’s crazy to think anyone could have been part of NYCB, even early days, without being totally into it! Got the impression some of them were competent, like able to perform and hold their own in class, but not passionately obsessed. And then on the other end of the spectrum there were fellow dancers telling Ms. Kent that men will come and go, but ballet is the only true thing.
      I am feeling well, mercí, missing class but also pretty occupied with the all-consuming need to nap when I get home from work. Actually had a dream about Smirnoff the other night: he came in to work for a fitting, but I was stuck in another fitting and couldn’t say hello. I think the moral of that dream may be Werk Sux.

  2. bippidee says:

    If you like seeing triple threats you need to go to more musicals – there are an awful lot of insanely talented all rounders out there. And I don’t know about the US, but certainly in the UK musical theatre graduates from most colleges will do pointe work. But I think apart from musical theatre there are limited opportunities to see triple threats – the actors on TV shows don’t often need to break into dance, unless of course it is a musical TV show like Smash, which has some incredible triple threats in the cast! And I am jealous you saw that production of Follies. Very jealous.

    • Apparently Follies is so expensive to produce that it it almost never gets produced at all. With a cast of forty-plus and all those sparkly costumes I can see why. That was part of the selling point, actually, figured we’d never get another chance to see it.

      • bippidee says:

        It is, I did an amateur production here in the UK last month. The costumes cost a fortune – I was a Follies dancer and we had 10 costumes each, it was insane!

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