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Encores! Does Follies
Good Times and bad times
I've seen them all
But I'm Still Here
— Carlotta from the Follies anthem song
How do you wipe your tears if your eyes are dry?— Phyllis in "Could I Leave You?"
To paraphrase the Samuel Johnson's comment about London: When you're tired of Stephen Sondheim's Follies, you're tired of musical theater, for there is in that show all the glory that a musical can afford —a book about show business that touches a universal cord and song after memorable song. That's why, since Follies opened on Broadway on April 4, 1971 and won eight Tony Awards including one for Outstanding Score, musical theater lovers have rushed to see as many productions as possible.
Victoria Clark and Victor Garber
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
For diehards part of the fun is in the comparisons. As the former Weissman Follies performers and their spouses gather for a reunion at the theater before it's torn down to make way for a parking lot, they are shadowed by their young and still full of dreams selves. Similarly, all the new Phyllis and Ben and Sally and Buddy are shadowed by memories of their predecessors. And so, for many Follies mavens, the last Broadway revival in 2001 didn't stand up to well in the comparison game. The scuttlebut about the production mounted at Barrington Stage two summers ago, had Follies fanatics hitting the road towards the Berkshires and finding it worth the ride.
And now the invaluable Encores! series has given us a Follies that even without the razzle dazzle of a full staging shimmers and shines thanks to a sublimely talented cast, with all the key players making their characters uniquely their own.
Much as I liked John Doyle's actor/musician stagings of Sweeney Todd and Company and thought both worked well with orchestrations geared to a limited number of instruments, it's a thrill to see the Encores! orchestra on stage and expertly directed by Eric Stern. Follies, with its emotion laden, often lump-in-the-throat songs, demands this sort of full orchestra treatment. Director Casey Nicolaw has directed the staging to bring every emotional nuance to full fruition and has put his expertize as a choreographer to good use. With just a few steps and a minimal use of glamorous ostrich feathered fans, he's managed to evoke the glamour of by-gone days and blend it with the haunting, bittersweet nostalgia of the story. In short, this Follies not only sounds grand but provides plenty of visual thrills.
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
Since there are too many talented performers on stage, to comment on all, I'll limit myself to the leads. The two unhappily married former roomates, Victoria Clark as Sally and Donna Murphy as Phyllis are magnificent, both in the acting and vocal department. Clark's "Losing My Mind" is unforgettable, as is Murphy's heart wrenchingly bitter "Could I Leave You? " vamp-y "The Story of Lucy and Jessie" The men in their lives are also beyond superb, Victor Garber as Ben, the worldly success with the anesthetized emotions and Michael McGrath as Buddy. While Christine Baranski, who plays Carlotta, doesn't have quite the vocal range of Clark and Murphy, she nevertheless delivers the show's anthem song, "I'm Still Here" with enough brassy panache to warrant the show-stopping applause that followed every number at the matinee I attended.
Costume consultants William Ivey Long and Gregg Barnes have outfitted the old-timers and their young shadows in a sleekly handsome black and white pallette, with some subtle color changes (like the flaming red outfit for Murphy) for the second act's Loveland section. That section has been smartly tightened to focus on the terrific songs.
The only real disappointment with this Follies is that, unlike the original which ran for 522 performances, this is an all too brief 6-day run. On the plus side, there are more Encores! to come: Face the Music by Irving Berlin and Moss Hart (March 29 to April 1) and Stairway to Paradise (May 10 to 14th) a first ever original Encores! production.
2001 Broadway revival
Sweeney Todd-Broadway Revival
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by James Goldman
Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw,
Music Direction by Eric Stern
Cast: Lucine Amara (Heidi Schiller), Christine Baranski (Carlotta Campion), Philip Bosco (Dimitri Weismann), Victoria Clark (Sally Durant Plummer), Yvonne Constant (Solange LaFitte), Colin Donnell (Young Ben), Victor Garber (Ben Stone), Mimi Hines (Hattie Walker), Katie Klaus (Young Sally), Michael McGrath (Buddy Plummer), Donna Murphy (Phyllis Rogers Stone), Anne Rogers (Emily Whitman) and Jo Anne Worley (Stella Deems).
Ensemble: Cameron Adams, Clyde Alves, Ashley Fife, Andrew Fitch, Emily Fletcher, Jenifer Foote, Ben Hartley, Natalie King, Brian J. Marcum, Barrett Martin, Jennifer Mathie, Shannon Marie O'Bryan, Denise Payne, Matt Wall, J. D. Webster, Kristen Beth Williams.
Set Consultation: John Lee Beatty
Costume Consultation: William Ivey Long and Gregg Barness. Lights: Ken Billington
Sound: Tom Morse
Music Coordinator: Seymour Red Press
Running Time: 2 hours 25 minutes including intermission
Encores! concert stating at New York City Center, 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. (212) 581-1212
From February 8, 2007 to February 12, 2007
Tickets $95 to $25.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at May 10th matinee
Beautiful Girls/Arthur Rubin & Company
Don't Look at Me/Victoria Clark and Vctor Garber
Waiting for the Girls Upstairs/ Michael McGrath, Victor Garber, Donnna Murphy, Victorial Clark, Curtis Holbrook, Colin, donnell, Jenny Powers, Katie Klaus
Rain on the Roof/Anne Rogers and Robert E. Fitch
Ah, Paris!/Yvonne Constant
Broadway Baby/Mimi Hines
The Road You Didn't Take/Victor Garber
Folero d'Amour/ Anne Rogers, Robert E. Fitch, Denise Payne, Barrett Martin
In Buddy's Eyes/Victoria Clark
Who's That Woman?Stella & Ladies
I'm Still Here/Christine Baranski
Too Many Mornings/Victoria Clark and Vctor Garber
The Right Girl/Michael McGrath
One More Kiss/Lucine Amara and Leena Chopra
Could I Leave You?/Donnna Murphy
The Folly of Love
. . . Loveland/Company
The Folly of Youth
. . . You're Gonna Love Tomorrow/Colin Donnell and Jenny Powers
. . . Love Will See Us Through/Curtis Holbrook and Katie Klaus
The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues/Michael McGrath with Kristen Beth Williams and Emily Fletcher
. . . Losing My Mind/Victoria Clark
. . . The Story of Lucy and Jessie/Donnna Murphy and Male Ensemble
. . . Live, Laugh, Love/Victor Garber and Company