PTC’s “The Will Rogers Follies: A Life in Revue”

Photo credit: Todd Keith for Pioneer Theatre Company

Photo credit: Todd Keith for Pioneer Theatre Company

By Haley Oliphant, Editor-in-Chief

The Tony Award-winning “Will Rogers Follies” will take the Pioneer stage on May 5, following the life of the American folk hero Will Rogers, a Zigfield’s Follies star in the early 20th century.

Using the Follies to underscore his life, he takes the audience on a grand rollercoaster of events. From Argentinian cowboys to the “talkies” and everything in between, Rogers entertains the crowd with his homespun wisdom and razzle-dazzle musical numbers.

Photo credit: Todd Keith for Pioneer Theatre Company

David M. Lutken plays the title role of Will Rogers. Lutken previously appeared in the Broadway production of “The Will Rogers Follies,” as well as in Broadway productions of “Inherit the Wind,” “Ring of Fire” and “The Civil War.” He has also appeared off-Broadway and in regional productions in both the U.S. and the U.K., including “Man of La Mancha,” “The Man Who Came to Dinner” and “Bonnie and Clyde.”

Will’s wife, Betty Blake, is played by Lisa Brescia whose Broadway credits include Donna in “Mamma Mia!,” Elphaba in “Wicked,” Cleo in “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” Amneris in “Aida” and Marion Halcolmbe in “The Woman in White.” Other prominent credits are Helena in “All’s Well that Ends Well,” Tatiana Racon in the World Premiere of “A Comedy of Tenors,” Gertrude in “Hamlet” and Sally in “Cabaret,” among others.

Norman Large plays Clem Rogers, Will’s father, and Hastings, Will’s butler. Large has a wide range of performing experience. He was part of the original Broadway cast of “Les Misérables,” appeared in the movie “Pretty Woman” and was a standby for Michael Crawford in “The Phantom of the Opera.” He was also seen in numerous episodes of “Star Trek” and once toured Europe as Tony in “West Side Story.”
Fresh off of her Broadway run of “Chicago” as Kitty, Chryssie Whitehead plays Ziegfeld’s Favorite, a beautiful chorus girl. Some of Whitehead’s other credits include the Broadway revival of “A Chorus Line” and Lincoln Center’s production of “Company,” in which she co-starred with Neil Patrick Harris. She has also appeared in television and film, as well as in regional productions and national tours.
Jim Bennett returns to PTC as Wiley Post, an aeroplane pilot. His previous Pioneer productions include “A Few Good Men,” “One Man, Two Guvnors” and a staged reading of Wendy MacLeod’s “Slow Food.” Bennett is a former artistic director of the Tuacahn Center for the Arts and is now a columnist for Deseret News.
Donny Osmond will provide the recorded voice of Broadway impresario Florenz Ziegfeld. The Utah-born entertainer’s career began in the 1960s when he was 5 years old. Osmond is known for “The Osmonds,” solo hits like “Go Away Little Girl” and “Puppy Love,” the “Donny & Marie” show, “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Disney’s “Mulan” and much more. Osmond is currently performing with his sister, Marie, in the Las Vegas rendition of “Donny & Marie.”
Will’s children, Will Junior, Mary, James and Freddy are played by Kimball Stinger, Ava Hoekstra, Nathan Eliason and Mila Howells, respectively.
Ben Abbott, Sarah Burroughs, Ashley Gardner Carlson, Sydney Duncan, Ari Glauser, Talese Hunt, Reba Johnson, Amy Laviolette, Luke Rose, University of Utah Student Media member Madge Slack and trick roper AJ Silver complete the ensemble.

Guest Director/Choreographer DJ Salisbury joins Pioneer to continue his “Follies” streak after having been involved in nearly a dozen productions of the show beforehand.

Phil Reno returns as musical director and conductor. He was last involved with PTC in this season’s concert version of “Chess” and “Sweet Charity” in 2014.

Ann Cooley will be assistant directing/choreographing, having worked with Salisbury before. The New York City-based director/choreographer’s credits include “The Will Rogers Follies” with David M. Lutken, “Peter Pan,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “The Producers,” “Gypsy,” “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Ragtime.”

For a musical that pulls out all of the stops, “The Will Rogers Follies” not only makes a splash but takes the audience back to a time of true American heroes and entertainment.

“The Will Rogers Follies: A Life in Revue” runs May 5 through May 20. Tickets can be obtained at the door, or online at Student rush tickets available for $5 one hour prior to curtain.

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