USF sets stage for downtown excitement with Chairman’s Reception, "Will Rogers Follies"
The USF Performing Arts Center was the place to be in Fort Wayne last weekend, as approximately 700 special guests and audience members gathered at 431 W. Berry St. for "The Will Rogers Follies," the first musical staged in USF’s downtown center.
Before the show, the university feted trustees, business partners, alumni and other friends at the Chairman’s VIP Reception in the center’s lower level. Hors d’oeuvres and champagne added to the festive atmosphere as the group celebrated the musical extravaganza and the university’s plans for its downtown campus. Cast members in follies-style show costumes, along with Will Rogers himself, played by local actor-director Brad Beauchamp, circulated among the guests, ramping up excitement for the show to come.
The show captured American humorist Will Rogers' homespun humor and political satire in an extravagant musical with singing, dancing and elaborate costumes. In an election year rife with political controversy, his jokes - "I’m not a member of an organized political party. I’m a Democrat," - along with his poignant radio address delivered at the height of the Great Depression at the behest of U.S. President Herbert Hoover, were eerily reminiscent of today’s socio-political climate.
The show depicted the life of Rogers, the comedian and headliner of the Ziegfeld Follies, through a series of Follies-like variety acts, directed by Leslie Beauchamp and Todd Frymier, with choreography by Abby Ehinger.
The show opened on Broadway in 1990 and ran for nearly a thousand performances. It won six Tony Awards, three Drama Desk Awards and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical. Classic musical numbers included "I Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like" and "Give A Man Enough Rope."
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