THE PRODUCERS OF ''Ziegfeld: A Night at the Follies'' wan audiences to know that the show is not a re-creation of the Follies but "a brand new musical valentine to America's Greatest Showman.''
Florenz Ziegfeld would appreciate that. He'd like the show, which opened last night at the Mechanic Theatre. How can anyone dislike a show that works so hard to please? How can anyone dislike a show that uses some of the best songs ever written? How can anyone dislike a show that moves at such a terrific pace?
The second act opener could use more work, but it moves, and by the time we have reached the finale, Irving Berlin's ''A Pretty Girl is Like A Melody,'' we're willing to overlook any minor failings the show might have.
As is, ''Ziegfeld'' is in near-great shape, a musical with very little book but lots of glitter. There are those costumes, said to have cost a million dollars, and there is the talent, all of it exceptional.
Kathy Reid, Judy A. Walstrum and Catherine Hart are the girls who sacrifice marriage to make the Follies. Michael Lee Scott, A. J. Graham and Paul Finocchiaro are the three men who pursue them to New York. Karlah Hamilton comes on as Mae West, Michael Shiles does W. C. Fields, and David Nehls is Eddie Cantor.
''Ziegfeld: A Night at the Follies'' originated in London where the show had a book based on the life of Ziegfeld. In the American version, the girls are the lead characters, and there isn't that much book. That's all right. In this instance, the book only needs to serve, and it does.
The first act has the girls make the Follies. The second has their boyfriends chasing them. As they do, we get one musical number after another, songs by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Howard Arlen, Jerome Kern and Harry Warren.
Among the titles are ''The Girl on the Magazine Cover,'' ''You Stepped Out of A Dream,'' ''Too Marvelous for Words,'' ''What'll I Do,'' ''Poor Butterfly,'' ''My Old Flame,'' ''The Object of My Affection'' and ''Stairway to the Stars,'' which is the heart of a lavish production number.
There are more than a few of those in the show, some of them tap extravaganzas, and they are about as bright as any Ziegfeld might have done, which is to say, they are eye-filling.
''Ziegfeld: A Night at the Follies'' will be touring the road for two years. The producers say they are not going to take it to New York. That's smart. Why take the chance?
''Ziegfeld: A Night at the Follies'' will remain at the Mechanic through April 28. If you are partial to the snappy, tuneful, dazzling revue, you'd be a fool to miss it.
There is flying by Foy. That means that some of the players ''fly'' about the stage, just as Cathy Rigby did in 'Peter Pan.''
A Night at the Follies''
*** A salute to the Broadway showman, a musical that has three young ladies strive to make the Follies.
CAST: Catherine Hart, Judy A. Walstrum, Kathy Reid, Karlah Hamilton, A. J. Graham, Paul Finocchiaro, Michael Lee Scott, David Nehls, Bruce Ewing, Carole Cianelli, Michael Shiles
DIRECTOR: Joe Leonardo
TIME: Two hours with one intermission