USF Stages First Downtown Musical

"The Will Rogers Follies," the university’s first musical to be staged at the USF Performing Arts Center in downtown Fort Wayne, drew a crowd of approximately 700 opening night special guests and audience members. Prior to the show, a festive Chairman’s VIP Reception was held in the center’s lower level for university trustees, business partners, alumni and other guests.

The extravagant musical, which featured singing, dancing, elaborate costumes and Follies-like variety acts, depicted the life of Rogers, who headlined the Ziegfeld Follies for a number of years. The show captured the essence of his popular homespun humor and political satire, and included the poignant radio address he delivered during the Great Depression, at the request of President Herbert Hoover.

The USF production was directed by Leslie Beauchamp and Todd Frymier, with choreography by Abby Ehinger. Local actor-director Brad Beauchamp played the part of Rogers.

Opening on Broadway in 1990, "The Will Rogers Follies" ran for almost a thousand performances, winning six Tony Awards, three Drama Desk Awards and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical. The show included classic musical numbers such as "I Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like" and "Give a Man Enough Rope."

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