There is no one right way to create a Follies show.
Now, shows generally follow a pattern. The performers begin optimistic, with a goal in mind, before they encounter a problem and have to work together to overcome it. However, shows often break the mold or adapt it to suit the club.
Whatever story the clubs choose to tell in their six-minute performance, they are carefully crafted by the directors of each group to be entertaining, recognizable, and relatable. These elements appear in the theme, the music choices, and the script itself.
Renee Rhodes, social media manager and web journalist for LCU, had little experience with creating a Master Follies show herself, so she sat down with two “experts” to discuss what makes a Follies show. You can read the full transcript of their conversation below.
Master Follies is one of the longest-standing traditions on campus, as well as one of the largest student activities. Tickets for the 2018, 60th Anniversary Master Follies “Can’t Stop This Feeling” are available now. The Saturday night show is already sold out, but the presentation of awards will be streamed live on the LCU Facebook page.
(The Follies Fridays story series will continue each Friday until the show opens Feb. 9. Read the first and second installments, "Judging the Show" and “Hosting the Show” now, and check back next week, Feb. 9, for the final story in the series, “Directing the Show.”)
((Author’s Note: My parents, Kevin (‘84) and Julie (Swafford ‘85) Rhodes, had a pretty cliche LCU 80s alumni story: a Koinonia guy found love with a Christliche Damen sweetheart, and thirty years later, their daughter attended LCU herself and began to work there soon after graduating.
Since I was never involved in Follies myself, they have shared many Follies stories with me, which always include tips Dad has called “timeless keys to Master Follies success.” They gave me the idea to speak to a couple of anonymous experts from the past that could add value to this dialogue.
One is a former women’s social club president and Follies director who participated in a number of winning shows and performed as a Follies hostess. The other is a member of the Chap Brigade, a comedy group that is difficult to describe, from the early 80s who was also involved with a social club that saw success at Master Follies for many consecutive years.))
Renee Rhodes: Well, let’s get started with—
Mr. Chap Brigader (Mr. CB): Did you realize that I was a part of the Koinonia Master Follies winning streak that won first place 10 consecutive years?
Well, we aren’t trying to highlight any specific clubs in this article, Mr. Chap Brigader. Please try to keep your bias from affecting the interview.
Mr. CB: Just sayin’.
So you were both active participants in Follies? Did the Chap Brigade participate in Follies?
Mr. CB: Of course! 74.3% of the success of every winning show could probably be directly attributed to Chap Brigaders.
That sounds a bit biased as well, but alright. Did the Chap Brigade ever entertain staging a Follies show?
Mr. CB: Oh, sure, we had a host—heh, I said “host”!—of winning ideas. For example, we could have been dead rubber chickens one year. 80s alumni know the one.
How would you do a dead rubber chicken show?
Mr. CB: We would have had Sub T-16 drag us onto the stage where we would sing our show – motionless – until they dragged us off.
But... do you really think that would have been entertaining?
Mr. CB: Are you kidding me? Many would say that that would have been near the pinnacle of Chap Brigade entertainment.
How would you recommend making a show entertaining, Ms. Former Social Club President?
Ms. Former Social Club President (SCP): Well, a lot of it comes from the story, sure. You want the story to be compelling from the moment you walk on stage with your theme to the moment you sing your final note and strike your final pose. But a lot of it too comes from the energy each performer has. That’s why you hear the term “Follies faces” tossed around a lot around show time.
What was the choreography like back then?
Mr. CB: Back in the 70s, it was just “choreography”: kinda like stick figures moving around. In our day, we started really pushing the boundaries.
Does that mean you mean you started danc—?
Mr. CB: We did “Choreography”—with a capital C. But the kids these days really take it to the limit—
So now they’re dan—?
Mr. CB: Now, they do “CHOREOGRAPHY.”
Ms. SCP: Especially with the inclusion of the “speed-drills” in most shows that feature a smaller group from the club danc— I mean, doing “CHOREOGRAPHY.” It often has a lot of special effects or signature moves to appeal to the audience.
What does it take to create a successful show?
Mr. CB: It’s pretty much a requirement that a successful show have something from either The Beatles, Queen, Michael Jackson, or ABBA. For three decades, including the 80s, 74.3% of Follies show songs were from these four artists. In fact, one out of every four Follies songs during that time was Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”
Ms. SCP: It’s definitely good to have recognizable songs that stick in the audience’s mind. Songs people hear on the radio or want to sing along to. It helps with the relatability of the show. Then, you have to adapt the lyrics to convey the story you want to tell.
Mr. CB: Oh, it also takes a lot of cash to have a successful show.
Ms. SCP: Yes, elaborate costumes and props require a significant budget. Especially when you have so many students in each club—
Mr. CB: Actually, I meant for paying off— I mean… for other things.
That will be about all for today. There may be no one way to make a Follies show, but at least we were able to get some helpful (?) “timeless keys to Follies success.”