Theatre History with Fun and a Flair: The Ziegfeld Society

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Lots of great people and fabulous scenarios entered my life from the moment I started researching Rose Thompson Hovick for the biography I’ve written on her life, Mama Rose’s Turn.  One of the greatest joys of them all has come from my membership in The Ziegfeld Society.

I found the group one day on the Internet while researching Gypsy Rose Lee’s performances with The Ziegfeld Follies.  To anyone out there who may be among the uninitiated, Florenz Ziegfeld was an impresario who produced the Follies on Broadway from 1907 through 1931.  Many of the popular songs from those years came directly from the Follies.  My favorite song ever, “Rose of Washington Square,” came from another Flo Ziegfeld show, The Midnight Frolic of 1920.  The Frolic was an “after-show” held on the roof garden above the New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street.  In the days before air conditioning cooled off the scorching New York summers, roof gardens provided entertainment and, if patrons were lucky, some refreshing middle-of-the-night breezes, too.

The Society’s motto is “Preserving Musical Theatre History through Education and Performance,” and they pull it off with a sense of fun and flair.  It’s led by an incomparable musical director, the wonderful Mark York.  Above is a photograph from today’s Pre-Show performance at Hunter College, with Mark at the piano.  The Pre-Show was followed by a screening of the only movie Florenz Ziegfeld ever produced, 1929’s Glorifying the American Girl.

Ziegfeld Follies, 1912 advertising art, scanne...

Ziegfeld Follies, 1912 advertising art, from period sheet music. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you love theatrical history, you would enjoy this group to the hilt.  All of the meetings involve performances.  One of the best special events of the year takes place every Easter.  We go in the Easter Parade – dressed as performers from The Follies.  Last year we must have been photographed literally a thousand times as we marched along Fifth Avenue.  It was a blast to be a showgirl for a sunny afternoon!  The website for the society is http://www.theziegfeldsociety.com.  Why don’t you join us in time for Easter?  Here’s me, last year, dressed as a showgirl.  This year, this could be you!

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