FOLLIES – the original production – was the last show that I ever auditioned for. I was taxied downtown to a rehearsal studio with Ruth Mitchell, squeezed in between Kurt Peterson and another fellow that I didn’t care about.
It was Kurt who was my nemesis. He and I had been up for many of the same parts, many times, including Dick, in Dames At Sea, that I eventually did with Loni Ackerman at Shady Grove in 1969. Loni and I became and still are best friends. But Kurt always won out. Including the part of the young John McMartin role of Ben in FOLLIES.
I remember being terrified – coming this close – singing “She Touched Me”, and Mr. Sondheim asking me what I had done in New York. I froze. I forgot. And missed the opportunity of a lifetime. Kurt got the part.
It was forty years later that I spoke to Kurt about this. He remembered me and my bow tie and assured me that the reason I lost out was because he bore a better resemblance to Mr. McMartin than I did. Whatever.
And so now, all these years later, I get to review this newest incarnation of FOLLIES without any regrets or bitterness but with great admiration for this splendid production under the acute direction of Eric Schaeffer.
Regrets and bitterness permeate the lives of Sally and Buddy; Phyllis and Ben the central characters in James Goldman and Stephen Sondheim’s extremely moving, thought provoking and highly entertaining musical FOLLIES now at the Marquis Theatre.
A modern theatre that has been distressed and transformed by scenic designer Derek McLane to replicate one that is decaying and about to be demolished and replaced by a parking lot where the demolished, drab, disillusioned and depressing lives of Sally (a spellbinding Bernadette Peters) and Buddy (a volcanic Danny Burstein); Ben (a commanding Ron Raines) and Phyllis (a comic spitfire and glamorous Jan Maxwell)
play out in between show stopping numbers that will enthrall and entertain you with one of Sondheim’s most masterful scores performed by a full orchestra – deservedly so.
Ghostlike and shimmering. Fragile and haunting. Memorable and aching. Painful and ironic. All of these words describe the experience of seeing this new FOLLIES. A show that one MUST see.
The costumes by Gregg Barnes are some of his best designs ever. The lighting by Natasha Katz captures the past and present beautifully. Warren Carlyle’s choreography illuminates with wit and finesse.
And then there are all the show stoppers. One following another that will bring thoughts of standing ovations over and over.
Elaine Paige in her defiant rendition of “I’m Still Here” – Terri White’s gleaming “Who’s That Woman” – Jayne Houdyshell’s all out “Broadway Baby” – and the gorgeous “One More Kiss” shared by Rosalind Elias and Leah Horowitz, et al.
Then the stars – not to be outshone – get to sing with incandescent strength their songs that define and deepen their characterizations. Ron Raines’ “Too Many Mornings” – Jan Maxwell’s vitriolic “Could I Leave You?” Danny Burstein’s brilliant “The-God-Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me-Blues” and Miss Bernadette Peter’s heartbreaking, almost unable to get the words out “Losing My Mind” – one of her finest ever portrayals.
There is so much to savor. So many delectable performances beautifully staged that make FOLLIES shine anew. See it.
www.folliesbroadway.com Photo: Joan Marcus
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