SONDHEIM'S FOLLIES. This weekend Encores! opens its new season with a very strong and thoroughly well-cast revival of Stephen Sondheim's 1971 musical Follies. Having enjoyed last night's performance, I now consider it one of my very favorite Sondheim musicals (with Sweeney Todd).
Follies portrays veterans of a show called Weismann's Follies as they gather for their first and last reunion. The main plot revolves around two former actresses and their dissatisfaction with their husbands, whom they met while double-dating during their showbiz days. Over the course of the show, the couples and other characters perform numbers that reflect on their former and current lives. There are varying degrees of interplay between the reuniting cast members and figures representing their younger selves.
Last night Victoria Clark (Sally) and the stunningly glammed-up Donna Murphy (Phyllis) were excellent in their lead roles, shining in their climactic second-act numbers. Mimi Hines (Hattie) was a delight performing "Broadway Baby" and Jo Anne Worley (Stella) impressed with her delivery of "Who's That Woman?" I was tickled to hear Yvonne Constant (Solange) perform the folies-style "Ah, Paris!" And Encores! favorite Christine Baranski (Carlotta) offered an expertly shaped "I'm Still Here," though some of her lyrics did not come through in the nosebleed seats.
The production is directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw of The Drowsy Chaperone, a show that also views past musicals with something approximating 20-20 hindsight. An extra performance of Follies has been added on Monday, February 12.
Here's the late Yvonne DeCarlo (the original Carlotta) discussing and singing "her" song, "I'm Still Here," on The David Frost Show.
Here's Alexis Smith (the original Phyllis) performing a version of "The Story of Lucy and Jesse" at the 1975 Tony Awards.
Here's little Daisy Eagan with an unusual rendering of "Broadway Baby." What a charmer!
And here's "Who's that Woman?" from the 1987 London production.