Broadway’s sterile Marquis Theatre has never looked so good as in the state of faux decrepitude that welcomes us to the latest, and finest, revival of Stephen Sondheim's Follies...Near the end [of "Loveland"] Raines, through a brilliant trick, snaps Ben and us back into the reality of 1971. We’re still feeling the jolt as the curtain falls and Technicolor nostalgia recedes into grim reality.
FOLLIES Broadway Reviews
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Finally, we have this one -- the first staged "Follies" I've seen that wouldn't work better as just a concert of blazingly theatrical Sondheim songs without James Goldman's mawkish dialogue. This rich and wrenching revival -- first directed by Eric Schaeffer at the Kennedy Center last spring and starring, for starters, Bernadette Peters and Jan Maxwell -- seems blissfully unaware of any such problem.
Eric Schaeffer’s lavish production, which features a 41-member cast and a 28-piece orchestra, originated at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. It has improved since then...Peters fully captures Sally’s sweet and innocent center. Burstein violently throws himself into the role of Buddy, bringing the character’s pent-up anger to manic heights. Maxwell, who is better known as a dramatic actress, proves that she can handle a tough musical role. Raines credibly portrays Ben’s downward spiral from cocky self-denial into helplessness.
A revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Follies" has arrived on Broadway just in time for Halloween. It's perfect for the season — it's got ghosts, skeletons bursting out of closets and a haunted house. It's also a treat. "Come on, let's go home," Phyllis says at the end of the show to Ben. But it's been such a good and tuneful production that you may hope no one listens to her and the ghosts stick around just a little longer.
I won't bore the uninitiated by comparing, contrasting, and breaking down the content of this revival versus previous productions. But for my part, this is the best Follies I've ever seen. (Full disclosure: I never saw the original, save a few video clips; I'm going on the fine but underwhelming 1998 Paper Mill Playhouse version, the terribly depressing 2001 Roundabout revival, the terrific 2007 Encores! concert, and, of course, the Kennedy Center staging in May.) Is it perfect? Of course not. But I'm not sure any Follies ever could be. The show's beauty, I suspect, lies in its imperfection.
Somewhere along the road from Washington to Broadway, the Kennedy Center production of "Follies" picked up a pulse. A vigorous heart now beats at the center of this revitalized revival of James Goldman and Stephen Sondheim's 1971 musical, which opened on Monday night at the Marquis Theater...The four stars of this "Follies" give X-ray performances, in which lives past and souls divided can be seen clearly beneath the skin. Like Mr. Sondheim's music, they make harmony out of the jangling contradictions that come with being alive.
It’s been a mere ten years since the last Broadway incarnation of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s Follies, but that ill-conceived version was lamentable enough to warrant another revival sooner than later. Thankfully, the Kennedy Center production has now arrived at the Marquis Theatre, and this beautifully staged, acted and sung rendition might well become the must-see hit that this brilliant if problematic show has never quite managed to be.
40 years after its Broadway premiere, Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s show still dazzles with its structural complexity and brilliant score...It’s unlikely any staging will ever equal the extravagant showmanship of the original, co-directed by Harold Prince and Michael Bennett. But just having Follies back on Broadway, played by a full orchestra and performed by a gifted cast, is reward enough.
But this is a show no grown-up should miss; after 40 years, it remains a piercing stare of hope and regret, longing and compromise. The kind of musical theater it dissects and eulogizes may be vanishing from Broadway, but Follies is still here, and it's gorgeous.
The Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman's "Follies," when done right, is one of the glories of the American musical. The new revival, a transfer from the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., is done right...The stars are supplemented by a crowd of featured ladies whom Sondheim provides solo spots in which to shine, and shine they do.
Schaeffer, whose early directing talent on road shows like "Big" has matured into something quite formidable, has achieved a great deal here. Not the least is the way the younger selves of the former showgirls are integrated into the action, often with the help of choreographer Warren Carlyle. Without the device ever seeming crass or manipulative, these sepia-toned lovelies of the pre-war years alternately flare up with the force of nostalgia and resilience - and, as the ever-intriguing Elaine Paige reminds us, "Follies" is about still being here just as much as wondering what happened - then recede whenever loss and regret overwhelms. It is a very poignant visual treatment and it gives way to a gorgeous second-act "Loveland" sequence (designer Derek McLane fills the stage with a plush look that suggests both a womb and a fatal web). The sequence is as caustic as it is beautiful.
No one could expect director Eric Schaeffer, a veteran of several Sondheim shows, to fix inherent issues - a momentumless narrative and soapy dialogue. But more originality in his approach, conceptually and design-wise (black drapes - really?), could have helped make a standard-issue show a truly distinctive one.
Sondheim himself, in Finishing the Hat, has called the show "crippled by its size, ambition and mysteriousness, and thus always worth the effort of experimentation." Director Eric Schaeffer has opted mostly to steer the ship, not re-install the keel, and, as far as I can tell (which, to be honest, isn’t very far), he and choreographer Warren Carlyle have preserved the spirit of Michael Bennett’s original hoofery...Follies is the disease and the cure in one package: I'd advise you to catch it.
The weakling elements evident in Washington last spring have been resiliently bulked up...The creative team behind this production has made the calculation that old age ain’t so bad after all; it’s sort of a baby boomer’s vision of “Follies.” So if the evening doesn’t resonate with much aching authority, it’s packed with entertainment. These dames still know how to light up a stage. And there’s much more to savor in this treatment since it played a sold-out run in the Eisenhower Theater.
Is a serviceable Follies good enough? Yes, because the 1971 classic is such a rich, dark leap into regret, with a witty and poignant Sondheim score--and besides, the Eric Schaeffer-directed production rises to the occasion for Act Two. It's still Follies, and with its go-for-broke emotionalism, this production is definitely worth a visit before they tear down the Marriott and make it a parking lot.
Director Eric Schaeffer deserves credit for working hard to address the numerous shortcomings of his Kennedy Center production of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman's towering musical classic "Follies." Performances have been retooled, staging and pacing tightened, misconceived choreography redone, misguided casting changed, and a much-criticized red dress has vanished. As a result, the show's potentially vast emotional power, smothered in its initial Washington, D.C., run, has begun to emerge. Unfortunately, problems remain. For those well-acquainted with the work, the result is a cruelly tantalizing miss. For audiences unfamiliar with "Follies," this production may prove more satisfying.
The revival that opened last night is in the shaky mitts of journeyman director Eric Schaeffer and a tentative cast led by Bernadette Peters, Jan Maxwell and soap-opera star Ron Raines. Rather than a seamless whole, the show feels like barely connected musical numbers of varying quality.