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Review Roundup: FOLLIES in LA!

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James Goldman and Stephen Sondheim's Follies, which was just nominated for eight Tony Awards, opened earlier this week on May 9 at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre. Performances of the exclusive Los Angeles engagement of the Kennedy Center's critically acclaimed Broadway production of Follies will continue through June 9, 2012.

"Follies" stars four-time Tony Award-nominee Jan Maxwell as Phyllis Rogers Stone, Tony Award-winner Victoria Clark as Sally Durant Plummer, two-time Tony Award-nominee Danny Burstein as Buddy Plummer, three-time Emmy Award-nominee Ron Raines as Benjamin Stone and Olivier Award winner Elaine Paige as Carlotta Campion. Maxwell, Burstein, Raines and Paige are all returning to the roles they originated on Broadway.

Let's see what the LA critics had to say...

Charles McNulty, LA Times: There's so much to praise in the blissful Broadway revival of "Follies," which opened Wednesday at the Ahmanson Theatre on the heels of its numerous Tony nominations, but let's pay homage first to the sheer sophistication of the show itself. After experiencing "Follies" again - an adult entertainment if ever there was one - I flat-out refuse to accept any more jukebox substitutes.

Paul Hodgins, Orange County Register: As many have pointed out, "Follies" is not a perfect creation. The air of sentimental regret sits a bit too heavily on its characters. Certain scenes are devilishly tricky to work out, especially when characters and their youthful doppelgangers begin to interact in moments that weave past and present together. But there's no denying this show's essential greatness. It captures the inevitable regrets of middle age better than any musical I can remember. And the whole thing is an excuse for some wonderful and period-perfect production numbers, especially the "Loveland" sequence, in which each lead character gets a slickly produced, Old School song-and-dance routine to lay bare the demons and despair.

David C. Nichols, BackstageVictoria Clark replaces Bernadette Peters as the self-deluding Sally, making the role her own with wonderful insight and amber vocals, from her double-edged attack on "In Buddy's Eyes" to the unbearable pathos of "Losing My Mind." The great Jan Maxwell burrows so deeply into the patrician Phyllis that you only hope she can return, with the best "Could I Leave You?" on record-an inspired performance.

Robert Hofler, Variety: Follies" is that rare Broadway transfer that has traveled well from its recent Gotham stint, and the reason is simple: Victoria Clark replaces the miscast and vocally compromised Bernadette Peters. Stephen Sondheim's masterpiece about a showbiz reunion and two marriages gone bad now works on all four cylinders, Clark being joined by the deservedly Tony-nommed Jan Maxwell, Ron Raines and Danny Burstein. To indulge in cliches, hearing Clark sing "In Buddy's Eyes," "Losing My Mind" and "Too Many Mornings" is worth the price of admission.

Katie Buenneke, NeonTommy: Unfortunately, the show as a whole rarely seems understandable. While many individual moments make sense, when strung together, things take a turn towards the indiscernible. There are also some generally perplexing elements to the show, such as the eerily omnipresent Follies girls who lurk around the decrepit theater, or the trip into Loveland, which seems to come out of nowhere and lacks a satisfying explanation for why it occurs-and furthermore, why it occurs when it does. It's quite possible that the show is more enjoyable upon subsequent viewings; looking back now, some things, like the shift in focus from all of the former Follies to just Phyllis and Sally, make more sense, but while watching the show for the first time, it is a confounding experience, albeit a beautiful one.

Don Grigware, BroadwayWorld: Not only are the musical numbers brilliant, but it is the totally unexpected way in which Sondheim manages to pinpoint each character's hangup in a novel, enjoyable manner that is striking. This is a perfect example of how fantasy and reality collide to the max, where show-stopping numbers and real life problems play off each other, and it is difficult to separate them. Pure genius!

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