You're gonna love tomorrow.
Follies, though not understood by him at the time, was to be one of the most important shows in Kurt's career. As a cast member, he was able to work with the very best talents in the musical theatre and establish important relationships that would endure. His relationships with Hal Prince and Stephen Sondheim would lead to his producing the now legendary Sondheim - A Musical Tribute just two years later. Follies, which opened in 1971 at the Winter Garden Theatre was a groundbreaking show, a classic, and with the publishing of Ted Chapin's wonderful book, Everything Was Possible, the show and everyone involved with it became a part of theatrical history.
But as is the case with so much of history, timing is everything. Kurt joined Follies as the very last one cast after the actor who was to play Ben was changed from John Cypher to John McMartin and... because of John's different physical appearance, they needed to find a new Young Ben. Kurt received a phone call late one afternoon, This is the excerpt from Ted's book on Follies describing his audition:
"Then come the three finalists for the role of Young Ben. Sondheim is summoned from a conference with the music department. The first candidate is brought in. All three young men have been screened by Hal's in-house casting director, the respected actress Joanna Merlin. The first two seem lightweight - one wears a floppy bow tie, the other has a bouffant hairstyle. Neither is of much interest. But the third, Kurt Peterson, is a distinct possibility. He reads some scenes with a stage manager and everyone seems pleased. John McMartin is summoned to see what they would look like together, since they would be playing the same person at different ages. "Well," said Hal, "it looks as if over the years the nose has changed shape a little bit, but we can play with some putty." John asks if he could hear him sing. "Oh, yes, fine, okay, by all means." Kurt chats with the pianist, then his large voice fills the room with "Lonely Town," from On the Town, and everyone is pleased. He stands there, smiling, with his hands in his pea coat, looking somewhat sheepish. When asked how old he is he says: "Twenty-two, twenty-three in February," to which Hall replies, "No, Didn't hear that. You're twenty-two." Kurt seems somewhat dumbstruck, "Well," says Hal, "I hope to see you. . .in rehearsal!" "Ah, really, thank you very much." Then Kurt beats his own hasty retreat. As he leaves, a toothbrush falls from his pocket. The atmosphere this time is decidedly upbeat. A good and successful audition can energize a room. The truth is that everyone in the room wants every audition to be great. It's just that so few are. Kurt Peterson is hired to play Young Ben."
In hindsight, Kurt has come to know that Follies truly was a show that changed his life.
All photos by Van Williams except where noted.