Follies - 2011 Broadway Cast

hitormiss wrote on December 3, 2011

Tommy Krasker, producer of the Broadway revival cast recording of FOLLIES, offered to answer questions posted at Talkin' Broadway's ALL THAT CHAT about the recording. His comments below are not intended as an overview of the recording edition, merely a response to specific questions that had been raised. Reprinted with kind permission of Tommy Krasker and Ann Miner (Talkin' Broadway):

I don't usually talk about the "process" of making albums, because there are literally thousands of decisions involved in making a cast album, all interrelated, and once you start to enumerate just a few decisions, they invariably bring up a dozen more. But the customer response to FOLLIES has been so overwhelming that I'm going to break my own rule; it's been very moving to be reminded how much folks care about this show and how it's preserved. But please keep in mind that producorial decisions on a cast album are both personal and practical: you learn to fight for the things that matter to you most, and to let go of the things that AREN'T worth fighting over. And please understand that there are some questions that I simply can't answer because they involve conversations with other parties that I don't feel at liberty to disclose without their permission.

I went into this recording as a huge fan of FOLLIES, and wanted to make the FOLLIES album I'd always dreamed of hearing. Steve's instructions to me were what they've become over a ten-year working relationship: "Outline the album you want to make, I'll make comments, and that's what we'll record." One of the things I missed most in the current production was Sally's original speech before "In Buddy's Eyes"; I think the original is one of Goldman's loveliest pieces of writing. When I sent Steve my five-page outline for the proposed recording edition, I mentioned that spot. Steve agreed, and spoke with Mrs. Goldman, and she agreed to let that passage be restored for the recording. I will say that Bernadette loved that passage when she recorded it. From there, since I'm not connected with the production itself, I can only imagine what happened next, but I suspect since Steve likes the passage, and Bernadette was very fond of it when she performed it at the session, they decided to put it into the show.

As has been discussed extensively online, this production utilizes a version of the script that's revised and trimmed down from Goldman's original. When I first saw a preview of the show at the Marquis, I was concerned that the trimming would adversely impact the album, as there were key scenes I knew I wanted to include, scenes that had been trimmed. But as it turned out, the trimming worked well maybe 70% of the time. The truth is, when we record dialogue on albums, we often do careful trimming, to achieve the same point and impact in less time, as dialogue doesn't always "sit" as well on disc as it does on stage. (A perfect case in point: Madame Armfeldt's first scene in NIGHT MUSIC, which I knew I wanted to include, but feared would overstay its welcome in its entirety; Trevor Nunn did the trim on that scene, and wonderfully, I thought.) So things like the "Bargains" speech, and Sally and Phyllis's confrontation after "In Buddy's Eyes," and Buddy and Sally's after "The Right Girl" worked just fine on disc in their abbreviated form. But there were certain scenes and speeches I felt were too skeletal and, deprived of the visuals, might not have the necessary impact on disc, and where Steve agreed, we aimed to adjust them for the recording: those included Buddy's entrance, his first scene with Sally, and Phyllis and Ben's last scene. Occasionally, I gather, these were then incorporated into the production as well.

In addition, there were all kinds of little lines that had been adjusted over the years, and simply because I'm a fan of the elegant poetry in the original libretto, some of them, frankly, just bugged me. Young Ben's original line in the scene after "The Road You Didn't Take" is "You'll make a good wife, Phyl." It's repeated later on, to great effect. In the production, they were doing "I'm sure you'll make a good wife for me, Phyl," and the clumsiness bothered me. These were the kinds of things where -- at the session -- I simply asked the actors to do an alternate take, with the original lines, and I ended up using those.

Here's my only slightly amusing anecdote. After the two days in the recording studio, I spent about two weeks editing together the various takes, and then strung all the songs back-to-back, totally unmixed, just so I could hear what the flow and the impact of the album was like. And I listened through, and I was really unhappy with the scene between Young Ben and Young Sally during "In Buddy's Eyes." It didn't feel meaty dramatically, it didn't "land," and it didn't even fill the music that was there. I went back to the original script, and sure enough, it was longer in 1971. So I called Lora Lee and Nick, who play Young Sally and Young Ben, and left them messages that I wanted them to come back into the studio to do a longer version of the scene during "In Buddy's Eyes." And Nick was the first to call back, and he said, "You mean, the lines Steve put in the show last night?" By total coincidence, Steve Sondheim had just seen the show again, and he too missed those lines and had just reinstated them!

Carlotta's "fell apart" vs. "laughed their asses off." It started because I wanted to restore "Whatcha gonna do?" before the song, which isn't done in the current production. It was essential to the recording, because without it -- since you can't SEE her singing to a group of guys -- you wouldn't know on disc that she's offering a commentary on her life and not just doing her old Follies turn. In the studio, I asked Elaine to restore that line, and after a take, I asked her as well to do "fell apart." Elaine mentioned that they had changed the line to "laughed their asses off" in DC, and she was fine with restoring the original line for the album. On disc, of course, I didn't need to go for the laugh, and besides, I already had Phyllis saying "ass" twice.

The Bolero? Strangely, it never came up. If it crossed my mind, it was for the most fleeting of moments. I really have to think back as to why. I suppose restoring that would have really seemed a violation of the notion of "recording this particular production," and although, as noted, there were a whole lot of dialogue tweaks, restoring a whole NUMBER is a different matter. Vincent and Vanessa don't even exist in this production, so you'd be manufacturing something that's not there, and you'd be asking Jim Moore and the orchestra to give life and specificity to something that they'd be playing through and recording on the spot. That said, one of the key reasons Phyllis's "Bargains" speech is there is because I really didn't want to put "The Road You Didn't Take" and "In Buddy's Eyes" back-to-back on the disc, because I knew they're meant to be broken up by the Bolero, and with the recording being so expansive, I didn't want to give the impression, as the original cast album gives, that that whole part of the show is about Ben and Sally. So the lines by Young Phyllis and Young Ben coming out of "Road You Didn't Take," going into "Bargains," going into the restored dialogue intro to "In Buddy's Eyes" was, in great part, my effort to see that "Road" and "Buddy's Eyes" didn't fall back-to-back, but that you saw, albeit momentarily, Phyllis and Buddy take center stage. Michael Bennett, as I recall, once said that he fought for the Bolero because he didn't want the "purple numbers" or "purple songs" coming back-to-back; I guess I felt the same way: thus, the lines by Young Ben and Young Phyllis and "Bargains."

I had no idea when we were recording that a new script was being published. I don't think it would have impacted any of my decisions. I just wanted to make the best possible album. And I should mention that all the text changes we made on the album were made with Mrs. Goldman's full approval, and that when she heard the final recording, assembled and mixed, she wrote that she thought it was terrific.

And yes, it was at the recording session that Steve came up with "pitiful" to replace "sorrowful," and he really did say something to the effect of "I finally figured out the right word after forty years."

-- Tommy Krasker, December 1, 2011

equisy wrote on June 14, 2012

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