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.
You know the drill:
A famed vaudeville theater is being turned into a parking lot, so the producer invites all the old showstoppers for a reunion, where their missed opportunities collide, basically leading to one musical breakdown after another.
Bernadette Peters plays the heartbroken ex-showgirl Sally as a raw nerve, a shattered wet blanket who’s one step from a looney bin, and she manages to pull it off via sheer commitment, though it’s not clear who’d really want to even chat with this gal at a party.
As the equally unfulfilled Phyllis, Jan Maxwell is sleek and caustic, catching the character’s humor and pathos as she veers between getting licked by a cater waiter and vehemently telling off her husband for his remoteness.
And supporting turns by Jayne Houdyshell, Terri White, and Rosalind Elias deliver socko old-school showmanship that reminds you why, even if theaters shutter, vaudeville will never die.
But while treasured British diva Elaine Page‘s “I’m Still Here” starts in a very effective conversational mode, halfway through she goes for full-on rage, with lots of eyeball rolling and harrumphing, an approach that doesn’t do justice to the song’s textures.
The anger works better for Maxwell in her sizzling “Could I Leave You?” Also in the second act, Peters’s “Losing My Mind” is wrenching as she radiates sheer pain, not going left, not going right.
In fact, everything in Act Two seems to click, like the big, skittish number by Danny Burstein as Sally’s philandering husband who — like everyone else — is torn, divided, underappreciated, and freaking out.
I found the last Follies revival — in 2001 — to be more consistently thrilling, but 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.
Photo: Joan Marcus