Follies … still here

When I went: 7 March 2019

Music Owl Hoot rating: 4/5

Location: National Theatre, London

Performers: Julie Armstrong (Christine Donovan), Lindsay Atherton (Young Carlotta), Rosanna Bates (Young Emily), Jeremy Batt (Young Theodore), Tracie Bennett (Carlotta Campion), Billy Boyle (Theodore Whitman), Kaye Brown (Meredith Lane), Janie Dee (Phyllis Rogers Stone), Anouska Eaton (Young Deedee), Liz Ewing (Weismann’s PA), Vanessa Fisher (Young Stella), Geraldine Fitzgerald (Solange LaFitte), Caroline Fitzgerald (Sandra Crane), Peter Forbes (Buddy Pummer), Bruce Graham (Roscoe), Adrian Grove (Sam Deems), Alexander Hanson (Benjamin Stone), Alyn Hawke (Cameraman), Harry Hepple (Young Buddy), Aimee Hodnett (Young Sandra), Dawn Hope (Stella Deems), Liz Izen (Deedee West), Jasmine Kerr (Young Meredith), Alison Langer (Young Heidi), Felicity Lott (Heidi Schiller), Sarah-Marie Maxwell (Young Solange), Ian McIntosh (Young Ben), Ian McLarnon (TV Interviewer), Claire Moore (Hattie Walker), Gary Raymond (Dimitri Weismann), Rohan Richards (Kevin), Joanna Riding (Sally Durrant Plummer), Lisa Ritchie (Young Hattie), Myra Sands (Emily Whitman), Gemma Sutton (Young Sally), Monica Swayne (Young Christine), Christine Tucker (Young Phyllis), Liam Wrate (Young Roscoe)

Creative team: James Goldman (book), Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics), Dominic Cooke (director), Vicki Mortimer (set design), Bill Deamer (choreography), Nigel Lilley (music director)

Approximate price: £110

Special points: Use of younger versions of characters

Best bit: Phyllis’ Folly (The Story of Lucy and Jessie)

If I could change one thing: Pacier at the start


The musical:

Sondheim’s idiosyncratic vocal style works well with the slightly surreal way of telling the story of a bunch of ex-performers and what has happened in their life since their days of starring in theatre performance. There are quite a few well-known standout musical numbers (I’m Still Here, Could I Leave You,?, Broadway Baby) and the theme of nostalgia, ageing and regrets is neatly woven through the whole work.

The use of younger versions of the characters who watch their older selves gives a very ‘meta’ feel to the work, similar to A Chorus Line, especially in the way that rather than a really coherent linear story the work was presented as a series of performances and set-pieces focusing on the core characters and their relationships in turn.

This performance:

Janie Dee’s charismatic performance as Phyllis ensured that she stole the show in most of her numbers, especially Phyllis’ Folly (The Story of Lucy and Jessie). I noticed that I recognised several of the performers and knew that Joanna Riding (Sally) had played Annie in The Girls and Babe in The Pajama Game but after looking up some of the other performers found that Tracie Bennett (Carlotta) was Laura Henderson in Mrs Henderson Presents, Billy Boyle (Theodore) was Mysterious Man in Into The Woods, Alyn Hawke (Cameraman) was Henri in An American in Paris, Claire Moore actually starred in The Girls with Joanna Riding, playing Chris, and Nigel Lilley was the musical director for Fun Home … so a pretty star-studded, experienced cast and creative team which contributed to a very accomplished performance.

There was no interval, which I actually really liked as I prefer to watch performances straight through, and the dancing was slick, making it a key part of this show much like in 42nd Street.

Overall I probably marginally preferred Company as I think the songs are slightly stronger, but if you like musical theatre in general and Sondheim in particular then you will really enjoy this production.

2 thoughts on “Follies … still here

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