Thursday, September 22, 2011


"Follies" at the Marquis Theatre, September 8, 2011

Stephen Sondheim's 1972 musical returns to Broadway via the Kennedy Center transfer from a successful run this summer. 

It's got star power with Bernadette Peters and Jan Maxwell as Sally and Phyllis, respectively.  There's some depth in the cast as well, with Danny Burstein, Jayne Houdyshell and featuring Elaine Paige as Carlotta.

Director Eric Shaeffer creates an aptly dark mood with a ghostly chorus line of deco-clad follies girls haunting the stage, already in motion as the house opens pre-show.  His sound designer carried it a bit too far, employing effects from Disney's Haunted Mansion before the show begins.  Derek McLane's sets also straddle the line of success.  The crumbling proscenium and brick-walled set, with iron catwalks and stairs evoke nicely, but draping the entire theatre in dirty oil cloth pushes too far.

Performances are strong.  Ms. Peters excels as Sally, though she's a bit too pitiful at times.  Still, her "Losing My Mind" pulls the heartstrings, and in "Buddy's Eyes" she matches the emotion of her "Send in the Clowns."  Mr. Burstein's Buddy was as usual a bit more fey than necessary, a habit that was better controlled in South Pacific.  Ron Raines as Ben fills the bill.

It's Ms. Maxwell's Phyllis that clinches this production.  Icy, aloof and piercing, she clips and quips through Phyllis' bitter facade.  The highlight is "Could I Leave You" when the bile and resentment of 30 years of an unhappy marriage spew out.  She's electrifying.

Follies, on a limited run, has just announced an extension through January 22, 2012.  This is one to see.

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