The Follies of 1907
The Follies of 1907 is a 1907 musical revue which was conceived and produced by Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. The first of several theatrical revues that are collectively known as the "Ziegfeld Follies", the work contained songs material written by a variety of individuals; including music by Seymour Furth, E. Ray Goetz, Gus Edwards, Billy Gaston, Jean Schwartz, Silvio Hein, Matt Woodward and Gertrude Hoffman; and lyrics by Vincent Bryan, Edgar Selden, Will D. Cobb, Billy Gaston, William Jerome, Matt Woodward, Martin Brown and Paul West. Harry B. Smith authored the words for the comedic and dramatic sketches used in-between the musical numbers; as well as serving as head lyricist. Herbert Gresham staged the production and Max Hoffman, Sr. served as the musical director.
The Follies of 1907 premiered at the Savoy Theatre in Atlantic City, New Jersey on July 3, 1907, for tryout performances prior to its presentation on Broadway. The production included many well known entertainers from vaudeville, including singer Emma Carus, actresses Grace La Rue and Lillian Lee, actor Charley Ross, comediennes Florence Tempest and Harry Watson Jr., dancer Mademoiselle Dazie, and the entire troupe of chorus girls from Anna Held's touring company among other entertainers. The work premiered on Broadway at the Olympia Theatre on July 8, 1907. For these performances the Olmympia Theatre was renamed the Jardin de Paris, after the famous Parisian theatre which housed the Moulin Rouge; a reflection of the Follies pulling inspiration from the Paris stage.
The Follies of 1907 consisted of a series of independent musical and dramatic sketches which were loosely connected through a plot device in which the well known historical figures of explorer John Smith and Pocahontas are introduced to what was considered "modern life" in America in 1907. The opening scene featured actress Grace La Rue as the famous Native American woman singing, "My Pocahontas", which recounts the famous legend of her relationship with John Smith; which was followed by John Smith proclaiming his love to Pocahontas in song. This opening music by Seymour Furth exemplified the exoticism of the Indianist movement by adapting European styles of music with Native American ones.
This opening scene was followed by a variety of musical and dramatic sketches set in the United States in which John Smith and Pocontas periodically appear as observers and commentators of the proceedings; most of them not geographically or chronologically connected to the Jamestown settlement. Some of these scenes featured satyrical portrayals of contemporary American figures such as President Theodore Roosevelt, journalist William Randolph Herst, the lawyer and politician Chauncey Depew, the humorist and author Mark Twain, and the Christian moralist and politician Anthony Comstock. One scene lifted musical excerpts from Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial by Jury and featured a parody of the American justice system in which the famous operatic tenor Enrico Caruso is put on trial for pinching a woman. In the scene Caruso is defended by William Travers Jerome; a man famous at the time for prosecuting Harry Kendall Thaw whose "crime of the century" involved the murder of Stanford White who was having an affair with his wife; the actress Evelyn Nesbit. The scene is largely a parody of the Thaw trial.
- ^ a b ""THE FOLLIES OF 1907."; Big Vaudeville Show, with Anna Held Chorus, Tried at Atlantic City". The New York Times. July 4, 1907. p. 7.
- ^ ""FOLLIES OF 1907."; New Jardin De Paris Review Has the Anna Held Chorus". The New York Times. July 9, 1907. p. 7.
- ^ a b Ann Ommen van der Merwe (2009). "The First Follies 1907-1909". The Ziegfeld Follies: A History in Song. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9781461731733.