Friday, September 30, 2011

Follies ***

(Always click on the title to see the complete review!)
It's unlikely that you'll see anything as lavish as the current Broadway production of Sondheim's 1971 classic now at the Marquis anytime soon. With its cast of 41 and a 28-piece orchestra, it is amazing that it could even be offered at normal Broadway prices. Consider it a gift from the Kennedy Center, where this production originated last spring. There is so much here to admire: Sondheim's music and lyrics, Derek McLane's sets, Gregg Barnes' lavish costumes, Natasha Katz's excellent lighting and, most of all, a superb cast led by Danny Burstein, Jan Maxwell, Bernadette Peters and Ron Raines. For the few out there who may not know the plot, it's about the reunion of entertainers from a Ziegfeld-type show 30 years after its closure, before the imminent destruction of the theater for a parking lot. At the center are two regretful ex-showgirls and their husbands, seen both as they are and as they were. The show is also a tribute to a musical world that had vanished, with solos for several of the old entertainers, most notably characters played by Elaine Page, Jayne Houdyshell, Terri White, Mary Beth Peil and Rosalind Elias. Most of act two is an extended fantasy sequence, Loveland, in which each of the four principals gets a show-stopping number in a different genre. Much to admire indeed. And yet..... somehow the whole is less than the sum of its parts. The book by James Goldman (revised here by unnamed hands) never achieves the promise of its concept. The characters, especially their younger versions, seem a bit underwritten. I mostly liked Eric Schaeffer's direction, but I did tire of seeing the spectral showgirls wandering aimlessly along the dark catwalks. Do not let these misgivings keep you away though. It's a rare treat to see so much talent on one stage. The revelation for me was Jan Maxwell, whose acting chops I have long admired, but whose singing and dancing talents were unknown to me. The only problem is that she is so gorgeous and charming that it is impossible to imagine anyone falling out of love with her.

Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes with intermission.

No comments: