★★★★ | Follies
If you are a huge theatre fan, love musicals, and worship the ground Stephen Sondheim walks on, then you’ll love Follies.
Playing in its second run in two years at the National Theatre, Follies is true and pure Sondheim. At the ripe age of 88, Sondheim currently has another hit show in the West End – the critically acclaimed and very popular Company. But Follies is a certain kind of musical – a musical that will perhaps only appeal to the die-hard Sondheim musical theatre fan.
Follies lusciously and lavishly tells the story of former Follies girls, in 1971, coming back to their soon to be demolished theatre for a reunion. It is a brilliant idea for a show and is executed to flawless perfection. The women range in different ages and are at various stages in their live, but they will always be Follies girl, past performers of the “Weismann’s Follies” musical revue, that played in that theatre between the World Wars. While the next day the building is going to be demolished to make way for a parking lot, the women have one last night to reminisce about their time as Follies Girls and their younger and more glamorous selves.
The book of the musical, by James Goldman, takes a look at these women through rose-tinted glasses in a story that is all illusion, smoke and mirrors.
And while there is no proper character development, some of the women do get to shine in a cast that appears to be dozens (40 actually). Tracie Bennett smashes the Sondheim classic ‘I’m Still Here’ while Dawn Hope passionately sings ‘Who’s That Woman.’ Janie Dee excels in ‘Could I Leave You’ and Joanna Riding drips with emotion while singing ‘Losing My Mind.’
Yes, Follies is a show that showcases the ladies. And while some of the men (Peter Forbes and his younger self Harry Hepple), and Alexander Hanson, get their moments, Sondheim shows his enthusiasm, appreciation and love for the ladies. For it’s their show, it has and always will be.
Winner of Best Musical Revival at last year’s Olivier Awards, Follies is playing until Saturday, May 11, 2019.