July 7: Zigfeld’s Follies

1907-Ziegfeld-Follies-SongsOn this day in 1907, a show debuted at Broadway’s Jardin de Paris theater which the New York Times would describe as follows:

There was a complete change in the bill at the “Jardin de Paris” on the roofs of the New York and Criterion Theaters last night. A musical review entitled “The Follies of 1907″ is describedon the program as “another one of those things in thirteen acts. Conceieved and produced by F. Ziegfeld Jr.” A large audience enjoyed it.

The thirteen parts are vaudeville acts. Emma Carus heads the cast, which is supported by a chorus almost identical with that in the recent Anna Held production of “The Paris Model” at the Broadway Theatre. Variations will be introduced each week.

From that inauspicious start came the biggest entertainment sensation of the pre-World War II era, the Ziegfeld Follies. Florenz Zeigfeld’s Follies were elaborate musical and comedic revues that theater historians now view as a stepping stone between Vaudeville variety shows and Broadway musicals like 1927′s Showboat which would fully integrate musical numbers in to a dramatic storyline. New productions of the Follies would run annually from 1907 to 1931, featuring new songs, new acts and new sensations.

Many notable entertainers would perform with the Follies, including singer Sophie Tucker, singer-comedian Fanny Brice (the subject of the musical Funny Girl), comic actor Ed Wynn, comedian W. C. Fields, singer Eddie Cantor, cowboy humorist/philosopher Will Rogers and in the chorus line of The Follies of 1922, a young woman named Barbara Stanwyck who would go on to great success in Hollywood. The Follies would continue after Zeigfeld’s death in 1932 in the form of a radio show, a few movies and multiple stage revivals, but they would never be quite the same without Zeigfeld’s eye for talent and razzle dazzle.

Now, according to Ziegfeld’s widow Billie Burke (a Ziegfeld star who would later play Glinda in The Wizard of Oz), the theatrical impresario had a particular alcoholic mixture that he was quite fond of:

[Ziggy] used to prepare 2/3 gin and 1/3 pineapple juice, with the rim of the glass moistened in lemon juice or lime and then twirled in powdered sugar, served very cold. At least he always twirled the first two or three in powdered sugar. After that, it didn’t matter.

Modern bartenders have taken this recipe and dubbed it The Great Ziegfeld.

The Great Ziegfeld

  • 1 1/2 ounces Gin
  • 3/4 ounces pineapple juice

Shake well with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass whose rim has been moistened with lemon or lime juice and then “twirled” in sugar.

Tomorrow: [CLASSIFIED] in Roswell, New Mexico.

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