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BWW Review: FOLLIES at Susquehanna Stage

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The production runs from July 23rd - August 1st

BWW Review: FOLLIES at Susquehanna Stage

With outstanding costumes, choreography, and production, it is easy to forget that this is community theatre. Keeping with their reputation, Susquehanna Stage's presentation of Follies, by Goldman and Sodheim, is a highly entertaining night of theatre. Follies, with its large and diverse cast, and difficult imagery, creates a challenge that many professional theatres may hesitate to take on, but seems well-suited for this strong ensemble.

The musical, Follies, first hit Broadway in 1971, and depicts the reunion of the Weismann Follies showgirls as they prepare for the demolition of their now decrepit theatre. As the invitees gather, so, too, do the ghosts (or flashbacks) of their former selves. The reunion inspires old dance numbers, and the rekindling of old flames.

Creating the illusion of both the characters and their former selves appearing on stage at the same time is perhaps the greatest challenge for any production of Follies. With little explanation to make the flashbacks work, the audience must figure out what is happening, connect all the dots, and believe in the fantasy. Using creative costuming design (with some absolutely amazing showgirl pieces) by Jacquee Johnson, lighting by Jim Shimo, and clever casting, audience members have no trouble falling deep into the dream.

The show revolves around four main characters and their former selves (so is that eight main characters?) and the drama of old love and failing marriages. Sally (played by Lindsay Bretz-Morgan) is in love with Ben (Michael Kohler). Unfortunately, Sally is married to Buddy (Michael Zorger). Adding to the conflict, Ben is married to Sally's former roommate and friend, Phyllis (Lorraine Ford). Bretz-Morgan's Sally was a standout performance for her vocal talents, acting, and a charisma that brought the audience to tears and laughter. Portraying a woman in love, scorned, and perhaps a bit unstable, Bretz-Morgan's Sally was a highlight of the show. Her co-leads also had exceptional moments. Zorger's Buddy was hysterical, likable, and well done. Zorger's duets with Kohler spotlighted the immense vocal skills of both actors. The role of Phyllis, enabled Ford to explore numerous aspects of one character culminating in her outrageous "Folly" in act two.

While the four main characters each brought a great deal of talent to their roles, the showgirls (notably their Who's That Woman? number led by Tricia Corcoran's Stella and brilliantly choreographed by Jill Gagliano) often stole the show and brought smiles to the faces of all who watched. One of the most beautiful moments of the show was the duet between showgirl Heidi (Sharon Boyer) and her younger self (Sarah Anne Hughes). Other supporting cast members that must be mentioned for their talent--and who exemplify just how challenging the directing and casting of such a show is--are the young men and women of the flashback cast and dance ensemble.

While there were some missteps--the occasional cast members with greater vocal ability than acting, a dilapidated theatre that didn't look very dilapidated, and some microphone glitches--the one issue that was noticed by many audience members was the imbalance between the orchestra volume and that of the stage performers. Having a live orchestra truly elevated the show and was one of the many touches that made the show such a unique and wonderful experience. However, there were many occasions where the orchestra volume made it difficult to hear the dialogue or lyrics.

Susquehanna Stage's production of Follies once again tapped into this company's ability to bring joy and keep us excited to go to the theatre. For more information on this and other shows visit https://www.susquehannastage.com/


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