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Rock Follies / Rock Follies of 77 (1976-77)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Series 1, Episode 1: 'The Show Business', originally transmitted ITV 24/2/1976

In theatrical agent Sheldon Markie's office, director and choreographer William Bishop is singing songs from the 1930s musical 'Broadway Annie', which Markie is to present on a regional tour.

Auditions are held for the female leads and three of the attendees are Anna, a graduate and unemployed 'serious' actress; Dee, currently working as magician Eddie Lorenzo's assistant at the Flamingo Club, Ipswich; and 'Q', an ex-nightclub chanteuse playing in soft porn films to make some cash.

At the auditions, they perform 1930s songs, and after being cast (with Anna as the ingenue lead and Dee as 'Fritzi'), musical director Derek Huggins introduces himself.

Anna has cohabited in poverty for five years with Jack, a polytechnic lecturer in American Literature. Dee lives in a politicised 'communal' household with Spike (a Sussex university graduate working in a leftist bookshop). When she arrives home, she finds him in bed with Gloria, another commune member and one of Jack's literature students. 'Q' lives with her American boyfriend, who sells designs for surfboards and spends most of the day under his sunlamp listening to 'deep' rock music. None of their men have any interest in their audition success, but Dee does receive some moral support from her agent, Schubert Birnbaum.

They attend rehearsals with director Bishop who emphasies 'charm' and tells them to 'think Peter Pan'. Soon, the three ladies row, as their differing attitudes to the show are revealed: Anna thinks it has possibilities, 'Q' is cynical and camp, and Dee is openly hostile, viewing this type of escapist theatre as 'irrelevant'.

The first night of 'Broadway Annie' is a flop, attended by a derisory audience. After the show (which clearly has no future), they drown their sorrows in a pub with Derek, who encourages them in a singalong of the rock classic 'Blueberry Hill'. Liking what he hears, he suggests they form a rock vocal group (after all, what have they got to lose?), as rock music is where the energy 'and the bread' lies, and it offers 'liberation'. Derek says he can mould their act, and he has music publishing contacts.

Director Bishop is fired and replaced by Markie, who plans to coarsen 'Broadway Annie' with 'tits for the husbands and queer gags for the wives'. During this travesty, the three ladies imagine themselves performing one of Derek's songs, 'Stairway', in a pop video.