Follies: Dances With Ghosts

The revival of Sondheim's Follies offers more extravagance than emotional grip

Eric Shaeffer's revival, moved north, with some recasting, from the Kennedy Center, fulfills only a modest number of the show's gigantic demands. There's much gaudiness and some fun but little atmosphere and less emotional grip. The two main couples, whose wispy background has always been a principal problem with Goldman's book, come off as four disconnected entities, singing their hearts out in a vacuum; Burstein's Buddy carries the most conviction. Warren Carlyle's choreography often seems remote from the sense of the numbers: He scores only one bull's-eye, with the young couples' twinned duet. For compensation, you get terrific turns by Jayne Houdyshell, Terri White, Rosalind Elias, Mary Beth Peil, Susan Watson, and Don Correia, plus an awful lot of top-drawer Sondheim. If Shaeffer doesn't create the cohesive work the authors strove for, neither did they. Like a giant seed pod spilling its gifts in every direction, Follies, as I said, is seminal, not pivotal.

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2 comments
jc46202
jc46202

Interesting. About 10% reviewing the actual production and the rest is all about the show and its history. While all that opening exposition was interesting and well-written, I'd have liked more critique of the actual show and its specific elements. As it reads, all that was just an afterthought for you.

Chuck Finch
Chuck Finch

I find this an aimless and lackluster accounting of a production that is eliciting a strong response from both longtime fans and newcomers alike. As to a lack of emotional grip, this Follies is the first production I've seen where the stakes between the two central couples are tightrope dangerous and deeply felt. We each have our own Follies in our heads. This one actually expanded on what I always believed it to be.

 
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