Sunday, September 25, 2011

In Revival, 'Follies' Is in Its Most Spectacular Form

Elaine Paige as Carlotta Campion and cast members in "Follies." Photos by Joan Marcus.


and Bernadette Peters helm a cast of 41 players with a 28 -piece orchestra in a revival of “Follies,” the Tony award-winning musical about reminiscence and regret.

An enormously – even unusually – spectacular undertaking, the revival is in a limited run through early 2012 at the Marquis Theatre

The “Follies” to which the title refers is a vaudeville conceit like the Weismann Follies, standing in for Ziegfield’s revues in the musical. But the musical “Follies” makes use of another interpretation of its title. Follies are unwise actions imprudently undertaken by each of the lead characters who met through Weismann and now, 30 years later, reunite.

Ron Raines as Ben Stone and Bernadette Peters as Sally Durant Plummer (foreground) and Lora Lee Gayer as Young Sally and Nick Verina as Young Ben in "Follies."

Since the theater that housed the famed Weismann revue is slated for demolition – to be replaced by a parking lot – impresario Dimitri Weismann (David Sabin) invites his “Beautiful Girls” to one final reunion. As “Follies” plays out, scenes from the past are replayed, sometimes alongside those from the present. The stage is filled with nostalgic visions of Weismann’s revues and its stars from 1918 to 1941.

Among those eagerly showing up for this gathering in 1971 is Sally Durant Plummer (BP) who met Ben Stone (Ron Raines) and Buddy Plummer (Danny Burstein) when she was a starlet rooming with Phyllis Rogers Stone (Jan Maxwell) in the 1940s revue.

The two stage-struck young men (Nick Verina as Young Ben and Christian Delcroix as Young Buddy) woo the girls (Lora Lee Gayer as Young Sally and Kirsten Scott as Young Phyllis) nightly with flowers and dancing. (See video at

The four main stars in “Follies” each parade their own folly and foibles.

Kirsten Scott as Young Phyllis, Nick Verina as Young Ben, Lora Lee Gayer as Young Sally and Christian Delcroix as Young Buddy in "Follies."

Sally foolishly clings to a meaningless memory of Ben and yearns for all that slipped by her – a lover she lost to Phyllis and the glamorous life Ben and Phyllis seem to live. Ben, despite a life of public acclaim, has daily regrets and fills his time with pointless dalliances. Phyllis, nobody’s fool, “you bet your sweet ass,” also indulges herself with silly flings with young men. Buddy, while very much in love with his wife, Sally, is locked in a folie a deux with another woman.

Not surprisingly, for this fabulous and well-planned production that was developed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, the entire cast of Broadway regulars and some newbies is top-notch. It’s also no surprise that two-time Tony-winner BP shines as the tremulous and unbalanced Sally, whose link to the past is stronger than her grip on the present.

Jan Maxwell as Phyllis Rogers Stone in "Follies."

If there is a surprise it is seeing JM, who received two Tony nods in 2010 for roles in a farce and a light drama, as a song-and- dance diva. Her showstopping numbers, “Could I Leave You?” and “The Story of Lucy and Jessie,” are breathtaking. Being very different in tone, they show off her range, even in a musical role.

Indeed, “Follies” abounds with showstopping numbers, from Hattie Walker’s (Jayne Houdyshell) “Broadway Baby” to the mirror-song danced by all the ladies and their younger counterparts, led by Stella Deems (Terri White). In this number, “Who’s That Woman,?” Warren Carlyle’s impressive choreography also earnss him a showstopper moment..

In fact, each of the leads gets to stop the show once or twice from the hit parade of memorable tunes, such as “Too Many Mornings” (RR and BP) and “Losing My Mind” (BP). Carlotta Campion’s (EP) “I’m Still Here” is an ode to resilience frequently heard on the cabaret circuit.

From beginning to end, “Follies” offers a remarkable experience. Even the auditorium of the modern and elegant Marquis Theatre is transformed by set-designer Derek McLane into a down-at-the-heels vaudeville house.

Don Correia as Theodore Whitman, Susan Watson as Emily Whitman, Jayne Houdyshell as Hattie Walker and Mary Beth Peil as Solange LaFitte in Follies.

“Follies” is a complex and beautifully constructed musical play. James Goldman’s book – for which he received a Tony nomination for the original 1972 production – is no less brilliant than the Tony-winning songs Stephen Sondheim has written for his iconic musical. Eric Schaeffer’s direction allows the stories to unfold and flower at a perfect pace for a memory play.

“Follies” surpasses all the fluttery expectations of an SS revival. This is flat-out the best production of “Follies” to date.

Visit to learn more about “Follies.”

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