Theater review: FOLLIES

September 17, 2011


My review of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s Follies has just been posted on CultureVulture.net. Check it out here and let me know what you think.

It’s a show that musical theater mavens never tire of seeing, discussing, thinking about, and no wonder — it’s good, substantial stuff. Two surprises in the new Broadway revival: Bernadette Peters is The Weakest Link, and for song-and-dance panache Terri White (below center, as Stella Deems leading “Who’s That Woman?”) pretty much steals the show.

One Response to “Theater review: FOLLIES”

  1. Steve V. Says:

    I was hoping you’d review this show in your usual trenchant way, Don, and you didn’t disappoint.
    I saw the show at the Marquis Theater during previews (one of the early performances with no intermission, thankfully), and was delighted that so much of what I’d prayed would be staged and performed well was, and then some.

    I concur with most of your assessment of the production, but would give higher marks to Bernadette Peters than you do, and not because I’m her biggest fan, which I’m not. Maybe I don’t read the character of Sally as harshly as you do. Some of what we supposedly know about her comes filtered through “Buddy’s eyes,” which, despite what she says in the song of the same name, are not necessarily that clearly focused when it comes to his wife. He clearly harbors a grudge against her, understandably perhaps, considering that she still carries a torch for Ben and judges Buddy to be an underachiever (which he is) by comparison, but if you go by what you observe her say and do during the course of the evening, I believe she’s a softer, sweeter and more endearing character than you (and Buddy) seem to think she is. In my opinion, Peters brought out Sally’s poignant qualities well. I admit she’s not as ideally cast as some of the other leads; she’s better cast than Raines though: a great singer, but not so convincing as a man deservedly at the peak of the social pyramid.

    I regret not having taken the one chance I had to see the original production on Broadway, and I only saw the pocket-sized Equity Library Theater performance in ’76 before now, so this is likely the best production I’ll ever see. And if I never see another, at least I can die a reasonably happy man having seen this version. Plus, of course, owning the recorded songs, on several albums, since that’s where the real brilliance of Follies lies. But how I loved finally hearing those songs sung live in a theater by a superb cast, like this one. I hope that your review will spur anyone currently on the fence, if any there be, to go out and buy tickets to this show. I agree with you: in most every respect, it’s splendid.


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