MusicStage

‘Follies’ for Fans

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by Donalevan Maines

Follies, nominated for eight Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical and the performances of four cast members, ended its four-month engagement on Broadway on January 22, but its music is preserved in a lavish two-disc cast album with the 1971 show’s original orchestrations backed by a 28-piece orchestra.

The full score by Stephen Sondheim is complemented by an extraordinary amount of dialogue that reveals much of the show’s complex narrative in the book by James Goldman.

The Kennedy Center revival that ran May 7–June 19, 2011, transferred from the Great White Way to the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles last month for a five-week run. The once-in-a-lifetime cast includes Bernadette Peters as frumpy Sally (especially haunting when she devours “Losing My Mind”), Elaine Page singing “I’m Still Here” as Carlotta, and, in their 2012 Tony-nominated performances, leading men Ron Raines (Ben) and Danny Burstein (Buddy). Also featured is the scene-stealing Jayne Houdyshell as “Broadway Baby” Hattie Walker, and, in the role that won Alexis Smith a Tony for best actress, five-time nominee Jan Maxwell as Phyllis.

A 50-page booklet of color photos and illustrations, lyrics, dialogue, summary, and credits also includes an incisive essay by arts writer Patrick Pacheco.

The 1971 Broadway musical, a nod to legendary Ziegfeld-type extravaganzas, is set in a once-famous Broadway theater before it’s razed to become a parking lot. In 1987, it was the ironic choice to open Houston’s grand Wortham Center with a $500,000 production directed by George Abbott and starring Juliet Prowse, John Cullum, and Patrice Munsel. I was there on opening night, like a goose in a new world, unsettled by its cynicism, amazed by the lush costumes, and impressed with the remarkable special effect of a wrecking ball that demolished the back wall of the set.

In 2000, when Paul Hope directed a who’s-who of Houston actors in Follies at Ovations, the Houston Chronicle suggested they remount it so that more people could see it, and Bayou City Concert Musicals was born.

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Don Maines

Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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