Par seeks high-kicking aud for vaude

Follies has run for 14 seasons, grossing $75 million

Paramount has set up a feature project based on the early days of the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies, the long-running vaudeville review starring showbiz veterans, with producer Nelson Woss through his Endymion Films shingle.

Show, created by former TV producer Riff Markowitz, has run for 14 seasons between November and May and grossed $75 million from about 2.5 million admissions. Past headline performers include Donald Mills and Donald O’Connor; Buddy Greco, the Four Aces, Lezlie Anders and Kaye Ballard are set for the upcoming season.

“To me, the story is very much like ‘Rocky’ in that the show had a lot of early obstacles to overcome such as the idea of using older performers in this style of show,” Woss told Daily Variety. “I think that when people see the show, it really inspires them to change their lives.”

Par execs checked out the show in late May on a trip that saw their tour bus break down twice — once on the way to the resort town and once on the way back. Production prexy Karen Rosenfelt will oversee the project for the studio.

The show’s been featured in a documentary — “Still Kicking: The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies” — which was nominated for a 1997 Academy Award for documentary short subject. A TV segment featuring the Follies produced by KOMO Seattle won an Emmy in 1997.

Woss pitched the project to Paramount after seeing the show while serving as a producer on “Ned Kelly” for Universal Pictures/Focus Features. He cited the popularity of “Chicago” and “About Schmidt” as indicative of the strong potential audience for a Follies project.

Woss is part of Woss Group/SEL, a Sydney-based joint venture with James Erskine’s theater and sports group SEL, which won a 2003 Tony for the Broadway production of “Hairspray” and is currently staging the Australian version of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” in Melbourne.

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