Filichia Features: Ed Cachianes’ Follies

Filichia Features: Ed Cachianes’ Follies

So what are you doing on the national holiday we’re having on April 4?

If you’re not attending many of the parties all around town and plan to do business instead, remember that The Stock Exchange, all government offices, post offices, banks and schools will be closed. There will be no garbage pickups, street cleaning or recycling. You won’t have to feed parking meters, but you will find that trains, planes and buses will operate with less-than-normal service.

Once again, all Americans on April 4 will be honoring the anniversary of Follies’ original opening at the Winter Garden. This year, the nighttime sky will have even brighter fireworks because it’s the 45th anniversary of the landmark musical’s official Broadway debut.

All right, I’m exaggerating. No, actually, I’m downright lying. And so, I’ll ‘fess up and admit that April 4 is not a national  holiday – not yet at least. But given that April 4 has been already earmarked as Vitamin C Day, Cordon Blue Day and – I swear it – World Rat Day, we should add a Follies Day to the list in order to recognize the show that Ethan Mordden called “arguably the greatest of all musicals” in his book One More Kiss (named, of course, after a Follies song).

Ed Cachianes would undoubtedly think that Follies deserves no less. He put his time, money and effort into creating a very vivid tribute to the 1970-71 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Best Musical winner and the (undoubted) first runner-up for the 1971-72 Best Musical Tony.

His love affair with the show began with the original production. “I’d already been to Fiddler and Purlie when my mother decided to take me to Follies,” Cachianes says. “She grew up in the time of the flappers, so she was interested in a show about that era.”

Truth to tell, while he was sitting in a Winter Garden loge, he wasn’t intrigued by James Goldman’s book or even Stephen Sondheim’s score. But Cachianes was, after all, a mere 10 years old, an age not included in the target audience for a show about first mistakes, second thoughts and lost chances. “Being on the extreme side of the theater,” he says, “I was able to see what was happening in the wings offstage, and that kept me interested.”

Then he became scared -- and not because of the acidic arguments initiated by the Stones and the Plummers. “When the set transformed into Loveland, it really did frighten me,” he admits. “But I have to say that when Ben had his nervous breakdown during his final song, I suddenly understood, even at 10, what this show was all about.”

Cachianes certainly must be in the running for the title of The First Follies Prepubescent Fan. “After that day,” he says, “I spent hours and days redrawing the Byrd logo.” (Who can blame him? It IS the greatest logo in Broadway history.)

Little did Cachianes know that within a decade he’d become a Sondheim friend after a mutual pal had introduced them. “And Steve then took me to MOMA and introduced me to what became one of my favorite movies: Kontrakt, a Polish film by Krzysztof Zanussi about a wedding that goes wrong.”

Years later, after Cachianes established a film club that meets from time to time at the Say What? Contemporary Art Gallery in Tannersville, New York, he showed Kontrakt to his group. But when he screens a film, he doesn’t just turn on the projector, sit back, and turn it off with the room’s lights when it’s done. Read what he did with Evening Primrose, the TV musical that Sondheim and Goldman had written five years before Follies.

It deals with Charles Snell, a poet who decides to escape the world by living in a department store – unaware that others have had the same idea. He falls in love with Ella, one of the reluctant inhabitants who wants out. But anyone who tries to leave is hunted down and, if caught, turned into a mannequin. Still, Charles and Ella make an effort – and, well, given that we’re talking about a Sondheim property, will you be surprised to hear that they wind up mummified in the store’s front window?

The TV special weighs in at less than an hour, so Cachianes wanted to give his audience, to quote a Sondheim song, more. “I went to Facebook and other places and found pictures of everyone who’d be in attendance. Then I did a slide show of vintage mannequins on which I placed each attendee’s face. We followed that with an artsy dinner party that had invitations stating ‘We invite you to attend the wedding of Charles and Ella Snell.’”

Turnabout is fair play, so when Cachianes and Christopher Cade, his partner of more than three decades, decided to become husband and husband on Sept. 27, 2014, many friends taped video tributes to the happy couple. That included Sondheim, who sang the famous “Happy Birthday to You” song with the word “Wedding” subbing for “Birthday.” He finished with the oft-used snazzy vaudeville-tinged coda “And many morrrrrre,” which may seem odd for people who are expected to stay married now and forever. (On the other hand, maybe Sondheim expected Cachianes and/or Cade to follow Joanne’s lead in Company and do it three or four times.)

Cachianes made a 19-minute special film for the occasion: Three Weddings, which involved a trio of couples tying the knot. “I sent it to Sondheim, who loved it,” reports Cachianes. “He asked me ‘What’s next?’ – to which I replied ‘Next!’”

Fans of Pacific Overtures will get the reference, for “Next” is that musical’s eleven o’clock number (if such an atypical show could be said to have one). Cachianes decided then and there to make a video celebrating the 1976 classic.

“It took me eight months to do,” he says, sounding as if he regrets not a single second of time and effort. “Finding the right clips for a Japanese-centric work wasn’t easy.” You may now see how phenomenally thorough and successful he was in creating “Pacific Overtures in Twelve Minutes.”

PACIFIC OVERTURES MASH-UP from ed cachianes on Vimeo.

Comparatively speaking, doing one for Follies was much easier. Because images of Hollywood stars abound, Cachianes “only” needed six months to complete “Follies at the Roxy” – which celebrates the showplace that provided the inspiration for the Weissman Theatre.

FOLLIES @ THE ROXY from ed cachianes on Vimeo.

Cachianes says he isn’t quite certain whether to call these works “mashups, film collages or montage films,” but one thing we know for sure. Anyone who’s planning a production of either Follies or Pacific Overtures now has a wonderful lobby display to ease attendees into either Sondheim masterpiece.

As for the rest of us, we should never let an April 4 pass without watching “Follies at the Roxy.” For that matter, let’s never spend a Jan. 11 without re-visiting “Pacific Overtures in Twelve Minutes.”

And when you think of it, given that Jan. 11 is already Clear off Your Desk Day, Learn Your Name in Morse Code Day and – again, I swear it – Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day – I say that Jan. 11 needs to be Pacific Overtures Day, too.

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You may e-mail Peter at Check out his weekly column each Monday at, Tuesday at and Friday at His book The Great Parade: Broadway’s Astonishing, Never-To-Be Forgotten 1963-1964 Season is now available at