There is something magical about Stephen Sondheim’s musicals. And Follies, playing a limited run at Marquis theatre was no exception. I went because I am a huge fan of Bernadette Peters. Having seen her in A Little Night Music, I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to see her again.
But beyond just hearing Peters sing, I also experienced a wonderful production with a story centering on how our past affects not only our present but our future. The stories of Sally and Buddy and Phyllis and Benjamin serve as the center of a delicious confections that includes one of the best groups of supporting actors I’ve seen gathered for a single performance. Every number was an absolute delight.
Peters frazzled Sally was the perfect foil to Kirsten Scott’s elegant (and repressed) Phyllis. Peters first act number (a wild combination of truth and lies) In Buddy’s Eyes was flawlessly performed with her trademark ability to transcend the music and communicate instead the emotion at the heart of it. Scott’s Could I leave You in Act 2 had similar power and in many ways was one of the strongest moments in the musical.
However, the showstopper, and I mean that in a literal sense, was Who’s that Woman, a company number lead by Terri White. If you see this woman’s name in anything… GO. She’s fantastic. I’ve heard of showstoppers my entire life. Can even reel off a number of the ones that were exactly that in their day. But I’ve never been present for one. And it was truly a treat. Ms. White was amazing and held the audience in the palm of her hand. Other members of the cast were equally delicious, including Elaine Paige, playing Carlotta and slaying the crowd, as well as Jayne Houdyshell and Mary Beth Peil.
And beyond the music, the staging itself was truly magnificent. The shades of the women as young girls (the play is set in the crumbling ruins of what was once a theatre housing the Follies—and the reunion on the eve of its destruction of many of the former performers, including Sally and Phyllis) that still haunt the theatre are beguiling and spellbinding and when they become shadows of their older selves as in Who’s that Woman, it is sheer magic.
All in all a wonderful night at the theatre. Unfortunately, Follies closed its limited run on January 22, but if there’s a cast album…buy it!
Follies, Marquis Theatre