The musical “The Will Rogers Follies” uses the backdrop of the Ziegfield Follies to tell the story of famed humorist Will Rogers.
Jarret Mallon will don the cowboy hat and play Rogers again for a third time in Arizona Broadway Theatre’s production, which opens Friday in Peoria.
“He’s an amazing historical figure, so I jumped at the chance to do it again,” said Mallon, who is making his ABT debut. “I’m honored to tell his story.”
Mallon said many theatergoers might not be familiar with “The Will Rogers Follies” but believes this is the perfect opportunity to do so.
“I hope this show brings them hope and lets people know that the world can be a better place if you’re kind to one another,” Mallon said.
“The Will Rogers Follies” centers on the famed actor’s life and career, telling many of his major moments through big musical numbers.
In 1991, the musical debuted on Broadway and won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Songs include “Favorite Son,” “Let’s Go Flying” and “No Man Left for Me.”
“It’s a spectacle of a show because of the costumes, choreography, music and dancing, but more than anything this is about a kind, compassionate person,” Mallon said.
In between scenes, Rogers performs rope tricks, which Mallon learned the first time he performed the role.
“I had someone in Texas teach me how to do it,” he said with a laugh.
To prepare for the role, Mallon said he read as much as possible and watched clips of Rogers.
Rogers was one of the most well-known celebrities of the 1920s and 1930s. Known as Oklahoma’s favorite son, the American cowboy was born into a prominent Cherokee Nation family.
He became a vaudeville performer, film actor and nationally syndicated columnist with more than 4,000 articles published in newspapers. Rogers also was known as a philanthropist and donated much of his money to charities.
Mallon said Rogers was just a regular guy living in Native American territory, then became famous and used his celebrity “to make this world a much better place.”
In addition, Rogers is known for his humor and words of wisdom, which are prominent throughout “The Will Rogers Follies.” As for Mallon, he loves that many of Rogers’ quotes could be attributed to today’s society.
“His humor is timeless and his comments on society are still relevant today, even 80 years later,” he said. “So much of his commentary could easily be plopped down in a newspaper right now and you would think he’d be talking about today.”