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"Follies" Is Revived, with Bernadette Peters, at the Marquis Theatre
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"Follies" Is Revived, with Bernadette Peters, at the Marquis Theatre

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The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
et al.

(Follies Website)

Book by James Goldman
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
(Stephen Sondheim Bio)

Starring Bernadette Peters, Jan Maxwell
Danny Burstein, Ron Raines
Elaine Paige

At the
Marquis Theatre
1535 Broadway

Director: Eric Schaeffer
Choreographer: Warren Carlyle
Music Director: James Moore

Also Starring:
Don Correia, Christian Delcroix, Rosalind Elias,
Colleen Fitzpatrick, Lora Lee Gayer, Michael Hayes,
Leah Horowitz, Jayne Houdyshell, Florence Lacey,
Mary Beth Peil, David Sabin, Kirsten Scott, Nick Verina
Frederick Strother, Susan Watson, Terri White

And an Ensemble of Singers/Actors/Dancers

Scenic Design: Derek McLane
Lighting Design: Natasha Katz
Costume Design: Greg Barnes
Make-up Design: Joseph Dulude II
Hair & Wig Design: David Brian Brown
Casting: Laura Stanczyk Casting, CSA
Sound Design: Kai Harada
Press Agent: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Assoc. Director: David Ruttura
Production Stage Manager: Arthur Gaffin
Orchestrations: Jonathan Tunick
Dance Music Arranger: John Berkman
Music Coordinator: John Miller
Production Manager: Juniper Street Productions
Marketing: Type A Marketing
General Management: Alan Wasser-Allan Williams
Mark Shacket

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 15, 2011

The Marquis Theatre was packed and energized tonight, with acute anticipation for the revival of Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) and James Goldman’s (book) 1971 Broadway musical, Follies. The Marquis was draped with grey material, frayed at the edges, to enhance the illusion that we were inside an about-to-be demolished Ziegfeld Follies theater. It was on that same stage, where, thirty years ago, tonight’s cast of characters had danced, loved, crooned, and lavishly entertained their audience, with their much younger physiques, more optimistic mood, and decades ahead of them to realize their dreams and potentials. Eric Shaeffer has directed a stunning cast with stunning results, much to the credit of this cast’s incredible array of impassioned charisma, as well as its dramatic and vocal talent. Every Sondheim song hung in the air like shimmering raindrops, every lyric pierced the imagination with poignant meanings, every moment of Goldman’s dialogue enriched the story with compelling and eloquent pathos. Every song and visual image lingered in my mind long after the final curtain call.

Bernadette Peters, a stage treasure on her own, presented an astoundingly effective Sally Durant Plummer, who arrives with her salesman husband, Buddy Plummer (Danny Burstein), for the Follies 30th reunion, with her heart still aflame, when she sees Benjamin Stone (Ron Raines), who’s with his wife, Phyllis Rogers Stone (Jan Maxwell). The dramatic sub-story here would be worth another play, or even an ensemble cabaret, as a multitude of songs spark years of lust, illusion, disillusion, rejection, torment, and accommodation. Ms. Peters sings “In Buddy’s Eyes”, Act I, and “Losing My Mind”, Act II, with visual stillness and vocal surrealism. Mr. Burstein opens Act II singing “The Right Girl” and follows later in “Loveland” with “Buddy’s Folly”. The Loveland scene is right out of a Busby Berkeley film, with roses and gardenias, all in deep pinks and red, garnishing the background, turning into a scintillating, lighted arch. Dancers with feathered plumes and wide-hooped, sequined costumes parade about the stage. Mr. Burstein is seen in a vaudevillian striped suit and Burlesquean dance routine, in “The God-Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me Blues”. There were so many showstoppers that the orchestra just played right on. It should be mentioned, early on, that James Moore conducted with aplomb.

Jan Maxwell generated her own spectacular show-stoppers, including “Could I Leave You?”, Act II, and “The Story of Lucy and Jessie” in “Phyllis’ Folly”. In the first, Ms. Maxwell pulled out all the stops in the dilemma of whether to leave her cold, unloving, but needy husband, Ben, because she sees him persistently pursued by the equally needy Sally. Ms. Maxwell’s outsized theatricality, stage presence, and projection brought the house down. Her Loveland “Folly” dance, with a crew of dancing Gentlemen, was filled with pizzazz. Ron Raines, as the deeply conflicted businessman, Ben, who loves nobody, including his secret mistress, pulled off the role with seasoned flair. His own showstopper, “The Road You Didn’t Take”, Act I, said it all, with a hushed, riveted audience, hanging on every word. Not all the showstoppers were as melancholy, as each of the aging divas took a turn in the spotlight. Carlotta’s (Elaine Paige) “I’m Still Here” was so energized, she could have broken crystal. Ms. Paige’s number was a big surprise, all decked in a flouncy, silky costume, and the audience could barely contain itself at its finale. That song, alone, would be worth a cabaret show.

Hattie’s (Jayne Houdyshell) “Broadway Baby” was belted out with rollicking enthusiasm and energy. Solange’s (Mary Beth Peil) “Ah, Paris”, was sung with perfect French chanteuse accentuations. Another reunion couple, Emily and Theodore Whitman (Susan Watson and Don Correia) sang “Rain on the Roof” with elegant results. Terri White (Stella Deems) was another surprising vocalist, in the sequential reunion solos, and her “Who’s that Woman”, sung with the Ladies, was another in the line of showstoppers. Rosalind Elias (Heidi Schiller) sang “One More Kiss”, with her own younger character right beside her, a glowing Leah Horowitz. Each of the four leads had a shadow, a youthful version of themselves, sometimes speaking or singing, sometimes even interacting, like a dreamlike vision. They were Lora Lee Gayer (Young Sally), Kirsten Scott (Young Phyllis), Christian Delcroix (Young Buddy), and Nick Verina (Young Ben). David Sabin was the effervescent Dimitri Weissmann, who produced the Follies and this momentous reunion.

As mentioned earlier, Eric Schaeffer directed with the result of maximizing a stage-full of timeless talent, and Warren Carlyle’s choreography was designed for the style and physicality of the cast. The reunion performers were all about their songs, and the retro ensemble of Follies, who waltz in the shadows, before making stage front appearances in Loveland, danced with transporting, dreamlike enchantment. Derek McLane’s dark, dusty theater scenery, that comes abloom in the Loveland fantasy sequence, is incomparable. I’d love to walk through that glittering archway of red roses, it’s a Botanical Garden all its own. Gregg Barnes’ costumes were as elegant as the roses, with Sally’s purple, velvet gown just splendid. Carlotta’s satin-silk extravagant dress was memorable, as well, long after her spotlight. Natasha Katz’ lighting brought a candlelit glow to Ms. Peters’ indelible image in “Losing My Mind”, and Kai Harada’s sound was clear and resonant. Kudos to Stephen Sondheim, and kudos to all.

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at