The Will Rogers Follies


THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES is a show about Will Rogers — a unique American, who, though he died in 1935, remains a beloved figure remembered for his humor, his wisdom, and his just plain common sense. At the heart of his populist philosophy was his most famous statement: “I never met a man I didn’t like.” Rogers became the biggest, most popular, and highest paid star of every existing medium of his time — stage, screen, radio, newspapers, and public appearances. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that he was the greatest star this country has ever produced.

— Peter Stone, 1994

Presented in the style of a Ziegfeld Follies revue, THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES chronicles the life of the beloved American entertainer through snappy tunes, elaborate production numbers, and comic sketches. The buoyant score by Cy Coleman, with lyrics by Comden & Green, includes “Will-a-Mania,” “Our Favorite Son,” “My Unknown Someone,” “Never Met A Man I Didn’t Like” and “Give A Man Enough Rope.”

  • Synopsis
  • Credits
  • Orchestration
  • Materials
  • Cast
  • History
  • Musical Numbers
  • Upcoming
  • Act I

    The curtain rises on an elaborate Ziegfeld Follies production number. The song, led by a dynamic leading lady known simply as “Ziegfeld’s Favorite,” celebrates Will Rogers, whose daily newspaper column has America entranced (Will-a-Mania”). After all the pageantry, Will enters and humbly addresses the audience, commenting on politics and current events with frankness and homespun humor (“Never Met A Man”). Claiming Mr. Ziegfeld insists upon an entertaining show, Will throws in a few rope tricks (“Give A Man Enough Rope”).

    Will takes the audience back to an Oklahoma ranch house in 1879, when Clem Rogers and his six daughters celebrate the birth of little Will (“It’s A Boy!”). Young Will grows up and, at age nineteen, vows to leave the family ranch to become a cowboy in Argentina (“It’s A Boy!” Reprise).

    Mr. Ziegfeld interrupts the show, pointing out that Will has presented two scenes and “we still haven’t met the girl.” Enter Betty Blake, an Oklahoma farmgirl pining for love. Of course, in this Ziegfeld production, Betty descends from the moon and sings from a giant trapeze (“My Unknown Someone”). Will and Betty meet in a train station, and he promises to come back for her in a year.

    That one year turns to several, as Will tours the country performing his cowboy routine (“The St. Louis Fair”). Will and Betty marry and have four kids, and the entire family travels the country on the Vaudeville circuit (“The Big Time”). Betty wonders if she made the right decision in marrying a traveling man (“My Big Mistake”)

    Florenz Ziegfeld offers Will a part in the famous Ziegfeld Follies, and he accepts. After six fabulous seasons, Will accepts an offer to go to Hollywood. Ziegfeld insists that Act I conclude with a wedding, so the company recreates Will and Betty’s wedding day (“Marry Me Now” / “Without You”). As the number concludes, the entire family exits carrying suitcases spelling out “Hollywood or Bust.”

    Act II

    Will and a quartet of cowboys wow the audience with a display of elaborate rope tricks (“Entr’acte/ Give A Man Enough Rope”). Will chats with the audience and laments the destruction of America’s natural landscape (“Look Around”).

    In 1928, Will decides to run for President (“Our Favorite Son”), but he loses the election. Betty, who has been left in California with the children, appears atop a grand piano and voices her troubles through a torch song (“No Man Left For Me”). Apparently, Will has been so busy making movies, talking on radio, and writing newspaper columns that he barely sees his own family. Will attempts to placate Betty with lavish gifts (“Presents For Mrs. Rogers”).

    Suddenly, the stagehands begin dismantling the set; the Great Depression has arrived. Will knows people are in real trouble, and he worries that all he does is tell ’em jokes. But the ghost of Will’s father Clem reassures Will that his straight talk and simple truths soothe the nation’s jitters (“Will-a-mania” Reprise).

    Will’s buddy Wiley, a pilot, arrives to fly Will up to Alaska in a flight that will ultimately prove fatal. Will says his final goodbye to Betty (“Without You” Reprise). Will explains to the audience that his plane crashed on August 15, 1835, and the nation mourned his passing. The entire company recalls the profound effect Will Rogers had on America. Will, reflecting on his life and career, encourages everyone in the audience to “start livin’ your life in such a way that you’ll never be embarrassed to have Mr. Ziegfeld do a show about you” (Finale: “Never Met A Man I Didn’t Like”). As the number ends, Will turns upstage, strikes his signature pose, and disappears into a tunnel of white light.

    A Life In Revue

    Book by                 Music Composed and Arranged by           Lyrics by
                Peter Stone                               Cy Coleman          Betty Comden & Adolph Green

    Original New York Production Directed and Choreographed by
    Tommy Tune

    Inspired by the words of Will and Betty Rogers

    Originally produced on Broadway by
    Pierre Cossette
    Martin Richards, Sam Crothers, James M. Nederlander
    Stewart F. Lane and Max Weitzenhofer
    in association with Japan Satellite Broadcasting, Inc.

    The size of the billing given to the authors shall be the same and shall in no event be less than fifty percent (50%) of the type size used for the title of the play, and the size of the billing given to the original Broadway producer and Will and Betty Rogers shall in no event be less than twenty five percent (25%) of the type size used for the title of the play. No billing shall appear in type larger or more prominently than the billing to the authors, except for the title of the play and star(s) of the play billed above the title. The billing for the authors shall appear immediately following the title of the play. In the programs, the credits shall appear on the title page thereof.

    The title page of the program shall contain the following announcement in type size at least one-half the size of the authors’ credits:

    is presented by arrangement with
    Tams-Witmark, A Concord Theatricals Company

    Additionally, you agree to include the above language hyperlinked to on all websites on which you promote the play.

  • Full Orchestration

    1 Reed I: Piccolo, Flute, Clarinet & Alto Sax
    1 Reed II: Piccolo, Flute, Clarinet & Alto Sax
    1 Reed III: Flute, Clarinet, Oboe (or Clarinet) and English Horn (or Clarinet)
    1 Reed IV: Flute, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet &Tenor Sax
    1 Reed V: Bass Clarinet, Baritone Sax, Bassoon, (or Bass Clarinet) and Eb Contrabass Clarinet, (or Bass Clarinet)

    1 Horn

    2 Trumpet I & II (both double on Flugelhorn)
    1 Trumpet III (doubling Flugelhorn)
    1 Trombone I (Tenor) (doubling Kazoo)
    1 Trombone II (Tenor)
    1 Trombone III (Bass, doubling Tuba)

    1 Bass (Acoustic & Electric)

    2 Percussion I & II:

    Mallet Instruments:

    Timpani (two pedal drums)
    Suspended Cymbal
    Large Gong
    Bell Tree
    Mark Tree
    African Bell Tree
    Glass Wind Chimes
    Sand Blocks
    Piccolo Triangle
    Bongo Drums (mounted)
    Temple Blocks
    Gran Cassa
    Gran Cassa/Piatti Combo
    Slide Whistle
    Siren Whistle
    Tube Shaker
    Train Whistle (highly amplified)
    Gun Shot (SFX)

    Trap Drum Set:

    Bass Drum
    Snare Drum
    Tom Toms
    Floor Tom Tom
    Cymbals –
    Wood Blocks (several sizes)
    Temple Blocks

    1 Guitar I (Acoustic, Electric, Pedal Steel Guitar, Dobro & Banjo)
    1 Guitar II (Acoustic, Electric, Banjo & Country Fiddle)

    1 Keyboard I Piano
    1 Keyboard II Synthesizer (Celeste, Harp, Accordion, Harmonica, etc.)
    1 Keyboard III Synthesizer (principally Strings)

    Piano-Conductor’s Score sent with rehearsal material.

  • Rehearsal Materials

    2       Piano/Conductor Scores
    20     Libretto/Vocal Books

  • Will Rogers
    Ziegfeld’s Favorite (A beautiful chorus girl)
    Wiley Post (Aeroplane pilot)
    Clem Rogers (Will’s father)
    Will’s Six Sisters (also) Betty’s Six Sisters
    (Played by a sextet from the sixteen Ziegfeld Girls of the Chorus: Cora, Anna, Waite,
    Theda, Virginia and Zulecki
    Florenz Ziegfeld’s Voice (Off stage)
    Four Cowboys (Male quartet from the Chorus)
    Stage Manager (Peter)
    Betty Blake (Will’s wife)
    The Four Rogers Children (Will Junior, Mary, James & Freddy)
    Off-Stage Announcer (Theatre)
    Roper (Professional rope spinner)
    Hastings (Will’s butler – played by Clem)
    Ranch Pianist (Played by Clem)
    Stage Hands and Wardrobe People (Actual, non-speaking)
    Radio Engineer
    Announcer’s Voice (Radio – off stage)

    Chorus (Girls & Boys)

  • THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES opened on Broadway, May 1, 1991 and played for 981 performances at the Palace Theatre starring Keith Carradine and Paul Ukena, Jr.

    Awards (1991)

    6 Tony Awards for Musical, Score, Director, Choreographer, Costume Designer and Lighting Designer
    3 Drama Desk Awards for Musical, Music and Choreography
    The New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical

  • Act I

    1. Prelude: “Let’s Go Flying” – Chorus
    2. “Will-A-Mania” – Ziegfeld’s Favorite & Chorus
    2a. “Never Met A Man” – Will
    2b. First Rope—Orchestra
    2c. “Let’s Go Flying #1” – Chorus Girls
    3. “Give A Man Enough Rope” – Will & Male Quartet
    3a. After Rope – Orchestra
    3b. Underscore: Will-A-Mania – Orchestra
    3c. Sixty Year Old Newspaper – Orchestra
    3d. “Let’s Go Flying #2” – Chorus Girls
    3e. Seventy Year-Old Newspaper – Orchestra
    3f. Underscore: Will-A-Mania – Orchestra
    3g. Underscore: Rope – Orchestra
    4. “It’s A Boy” – Clem & Girls Sextet (Will’s Sisters)
    4a. Underscore: Thirteen Year Old – Orchestra
    4b. Custer’s Last Stand – Orchestra
    5. Underscore: It’s A Boy – Orchestra
    5a. That’s Final – Orchestra
    6. Reprise: “It’s A Boy” – Will, Clem & Girls Sextet (Will’s Sisters)
    7. “My Unknown Someone” – Betty
    8. “Clem’s Return” – Clem
    9. Texas Jack’s Wild West Show – Orchestra
    9a. Texas Jack’s Dog Act – Orchestra
    10. “The St. Louis Fair” – Girls Sextet (Betty’s Sisters)
    10a. Fairground Underscore – Orchestra
    10b. Unknown Someone Underscore – Orchestra
    10c. “First Wedding Cue” – Will & Betty
    11. “The Big Time” – Will, Betty, Will Jr., Mary, James & Freddy
     11a. Playoff: Big Time – Orchestra
    12. “My Big Mistake” – Betty
    “Powder Puff Ballet” – Ziegfeld Girls & Orchestra
    12a. “Will At The Follies” – Will
    12b. “Let’s Go Flying #3” – Chorus Girls
    12c. Angel Clem Underscore – Orchestra
    13. The Wedding: “Marry Me Now”/“Without You”

    Act II

    14. Entr’acte – Male Quartet & Will
    14a. Ta Da – Orchestra
    15. “Look Around” – Will
    16. The Campaign: “Our Favorite Son” – Will & Chorus
    16a. Playoff: “Campaign” – Will & Chorus Girls
    17. “No Man Left For Me” – Betty
    17a. Kids – Orchestra
    17b. Scoot – Orchestra
    18. “Presents For Mrs. Rogers” – Will & Male Quartet
    18a. Exit Ziegfeld’s Favorite – Orchestra
    18b. Underscore: Never Met A Man – Orchestra
    19. Reprise: “Will-A-Mania” – Will, Clem, & Chorus
    19a. Betty’s Goodbye (Reprise: “Without You”) – Betty
    19b. Will-A-Mania Chorale – Orchestra
    20. “Never Met A Man I Didn’t Like” – Will & Chorus
    21. Bows – Orchestra
    22. Exit Music – Orchestra

  • Find upcoming performances near you.

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    Organization City, State First Performance Last Performance
    STAGES Performing Arts Youth Academy Hillsboro, OR 03/01/2020 03/08/2020
    Highlands Playhouse Highlands, NC 07/16/2020 08/02/2020