79 of 86 people found the following review helpful
The CD of the 2011 Follies revival has been released! Short version of my review: buy this CD now. No, really. Buy it now.
And now the longer version. Before seeing the 2011 revival, I was only dimly aware of "Follies"--mostly that while Sondheim fans loved it, it was a difficult show to pull off. And I had only a fleeting knowledge of the songs themselves. But this production blew me away, and now there are 5-6 songs I can't imagine living without. There's one of the best showbiz anthems, the very best survival song, the best divorce song, and so on. Magnificent score! But several other renditions of the Broadway score exist... do we need a new one?
For those unfamiliar with it, "Follies" is a show about aging showgirls and their spouses who come together for a reunion in their former theater the night before it's torn down. The story is one of nostalgia, lost dreams, survival and roads not taken.
One thing worth saying upfront is that "Follies" really is a show that has to be seen, especially when it was acted as strongly as this production. Many times, the music is subtext to what's happening on stage, or the stage action deeply colors the songs. The Mirror Number, "Who's That Woman," is a perfect example. Hearing it, it's a great song. But to get the full effect, you have to see all these veteran performers recalling their youth by dancing it one last time (it was one of their marquee songs from the good ol' days), and it becomes an overwhelming showstopper. But then you realize that their dance partners are the ghosts of their former selves, when they were young showgirls at the height of their glory, and it moves you to tears. I'm not sure if that gamut of emotions carries though just listening to it.
That caveat aside, in nearly every other sense the CD is remarkable. The key figures are the two unhappily married couples at the core of the story--if they can't carry their weight, the whole show falls flat. And boy do they shine is this recording. Take Jan Maxwell, particularly in "Could I Leave You?" She starts out with drenching sweetness before building to simmering resentment and ending in a thundering cry of rage and lost dreams. Bernadette Peters is riveting as the desperately miserable housewife on the verge of a nervous breakdown--her fractured portrayal is genius. Relative to her live performance, her "Losing my Mind" is somewhat restrained. When performing live, her delivery was shattered and shattering; the presentation here is still heartbreaking, but with a little less rawness that serves the CD better.
And the men are absolute revelations. Ron Raines has a rich, authoritative baritone--but has a hollowed out quality that serves Ben wonderfully, and his singing brings us on an emotional roller coaster that has to be heard to be believed. Danny Burstein is hands-down the best Buddy to date. He performs with wonderfully musicality, but just below the surface is a world of self-hatred, desperate loneliness and unrequited love for his wife who, sadly, loves someone else. In his hands, Buddy finally makes sense.
The secondary parts are bits of luxury casting that thoroughly delight. Terri White's take on "Who's That Woman?" is a force of nature. Elaine Paige's knowing rendition of "I'm Still Here" is a milestone. Surprisingly (or not), one of the most heart-wrenching songs is "One More Kiss" by 82-year-old opera veteran Rosalind Elias. Her poignancy, emotional power, and flawless technique are stunning, in this her Broadway debut. And at the end of Jane Houdyshell's big-hearted "Broadway Baby" I wanted to cheer.
A final thing. I was blown away by PS Classics presentation of this incredible CD. Not only did they record all the songs of the show, but a significant number of the lead-in dialogue, so it's possible to follow the narrative of the entire show and understand the context of the various numbers. These bits have their own tracks and can all be skipped, but I think many people will find they add immeasurably to the proceedings. The notes also contain several short essays, and all in all the booklet has more photos than the souvenir program available at the theater. This was clearly a work of love by all involved.
Some purists might quibble with this or that detail--other CD's have additional songs that were used in other productions or cut before the show opened. And Bernadette really plays against type here... I loved her performance but I suspect others might not feel the same.
But I digress. This is a FANTASTIC performance of a FANTASTIC score and if you have any interest in Broadway, you need to get this CD.
46 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2011
Suffice to say, "Follies" is one of the most legendary musicals. This is for a number of reasons: its creation was one of exhaustion and trial-and-elimination. The Original Broadway Production was curiously received (obtaining either smashing or devastating or, even worse, ambiguously indifferent reviews), and was a box office disaster. Finally, the cast recording infamously cut or short-changed a large portion of the score. Despite the quality of the performers and the production, the recording itself has never felt more than adequate. It's since been revived, albeit infrequently, by notable companies over time. First, there was the recording with the New York Philharmonic in the 1980's, which featured the full, glorious score, as well as several noticeable stars, such as Lee Remick, Mandy Patinkin, George Hearn, Barbara Cook (despite what anyone ever says, I find both her Sally and delivery of "Losing My Mind" exceptionally underwhelming), and Carol Burnett. Then there's the London Cast from the late 80's. Although not perfect, it makes a good listen. Julia McKenzie and Dianna Rigg headed the cast, and made for strong leads (McKenzie's "Losing My Mind" is a force to be reckoned with), although the changes to the book and score detrimentally affected the show as a whole ("Country House" is a enjoyable number, but in no way replaces "the Road You Didn't Take", and the upbeat finale was disgraceful). Dolores Gray excelled with "I'm Still Here", though. The Papermill Playhouse recording in the 90's was acceptable but unremarkable; Donna McKechnie and Dee Hoty made for a lively, but not outstanding Sally and Phyllis. The inclusion of previously cut numbers on the recording made the album a must have though. Though not recorded, its return to Broadway in the 2001 revival was a misfire for all intents and purposes; the leads came across as too old, all too under-sung, and the production too scaled-back, orchestra included (absolutely criminal for a "Follies" production). And the 2007 Encores! production was only semi-staged, but quite well-done considering, despite the miscasting of Victoria Clark (whose Sally was disastrous, though this is forgivable given Donna Murphy's phenomenal Phyllis.)
Then, after a brief but eagerly-anticipated run at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., this lush, full-scale, epic revival transferred to the Great White Way. And, THANK GOODNESS it did.
And NOW, to THIS 2011 CAST RECORDING:
I shall start out by stating (that's correct: stating) this is THE definitive recording of the masterwork that is "Follies".
First off, the orchestrations are absolutely exceptional; filled with TWENTY-EIGHT pieces (in 2011? Unheard of!), Sondheim's original orchestral intentions are brought to life like never before.
Now, to the cast...I, among many, consider Bernadette Peters (aka the Goddess of American Musical Theatre) to be the prime interpreter and muse of Stephen Sondheim. Her performances in "Sunday In The Park With George, Into The Woods, Anyone Can Whistle" [yes, I count it], "Gypsy" and "A Little Night Music" succeeded each other in both brilliance, depth and quality. And her performance as Sally Durant Plummer, the former showgirl-turned-depressed Phoenix housewife is, to put it mildly, a revelation. Fragile but naive, she captures Sally's giddy ambivalence from the Prologue absolutely stunningly. Her on-stage nuances are nearly all captured on this recording as Peters clearly "gets" Sally in a way that no one since Dorothy Collins has. "In Buddy's Eyes" becomes even more tragically beautiful than ever; Peters conveys Sally's ill-attempt at a lie exquisitely, making the balled nearly disturbing in its self-delusion and lack of truth. Of course, none of this compares to her truly shattering rendition of "Losing My Mind" (in my opinion, the greatest number in the show.) In Peters' hands, the number becomes an existential piece of devastation and wrenching truth. Her delivery of the climax will tear your heart and soul apart. It truly transcends magnificence. In short, you'll see a tiny, sad woman fall apart in five short minutes; it's breathtaking, Tony-winning work if it's ever existed. Some will declare she's miscast in the part, as the idiosyncratic performance will undoubtedly rub a couple folks the wrong way, however, Peters is playing against type in a part she's clearly pouring her heart and soul into; she's not miscast, not at all, just don't go in expecting a 'scene-stealing, adorable' Peters role as many have come to expect. Be prepared to see a brittle, frail but hopeful and silly woman on the verge of a breakdown...you must see it to believe.
Usually, "Follies" succeeds on the shoulders of Sally and Phyllis; while that's not untrue here, the heart of the show belongs to Peters' Sally and her on-stage husband, Buddy Plummer, played to *true* perfection by Danny Burstein. Apart from maybe Sally, Buddy is quite possibly the most difficult role in the show, yet Burstein pulls it off so exceptionally, and seemingly so effortlessly, it seems impossible no one has before. Burstein isn't showy, he's not over the top, he's just real. He'll put a lump in your throat. His tour-de-force work here delivers 100% of the time...and then some. His "the Right Girl" is simply wonderful. And "The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me-Blues" (or "Buddy's Blues") is nothing short of incredible.
As the evening's other couple, we have Jan Maxwell and Ron Raines, as Phyllis and Ben Stone, respectively.
The flashier of the two leads, Phyllis has an easier role, as hers is equipped with one liners and sass to spare. That said, this takes nothing away from the spectacular work done by Maxwell, who infuses Phyllis's lines with sardonic wit with that never comes across as self-indulgent or aware. Her "Could I Leave You?" is a mad, rage-filled, passionate spectacle that believably conveys thirty years of bottled up marital stress (though Donna Murphy's "Leave You" still holds the golden trophy for this song.) "The Story Of Lucy and Jessie" is delivered powerfully, but it's a dance number, so reviewing the recording of it does little justice to seeing it live. As for Ron Raines, well, he's not bad. Not at all. He's just the weakest of the bunch. Granted, he keeps getting better (I've seen him twice live), and he clearly cares very much about the material. He just seems to have some trouble connecting to Ben's insecurities, though his performance on the recording is nearly the opposite: he seems totally at ease in Ben's skin. "The Road You Didn't Take" is powerful both vocally and emotionally in his hands.
In the cameo-ish roles, we have Jayne Houdyshell as Hattie Walker, Mary Beth Peil as Solange Lafette, Terri White as Stella Deems, and Elaine Paige as Carlotta Campion. Houdyshell knocks the iconic "Broadway Baby" out of the park with a sturdy gusto Linda Lavin (who played the role in D.C.) severely lacked. Peil plays Lafette as a slinky yet quirky seductress, and her "Ah, Paris!" only confirms this (a monumental improvement over Regine, who essayed the part, poorly, in D.C.). Terri White tears it up as she leads the ladies in "Who's That Woman". And finally, as Carlotta, the most notable role aside from the lead quartet, Paige takes the standard, intimidating "I'm Still Here" and gives it both a dramatic and vocal heft only equaled by a few of her superiors. Her command of the music, lyrics and character prove that she's still a force to be reckoned with. Her thunderous climax reminds audiences that not only is the song still as prevalent as ever, so is Paige.
In addition to the musical numbers, this recording has gone full-out and recording nearly all of the dialogue from the show. This, in addition to the amazing song recordings, make this album a must-have. The entire plot is comprehensible and now goes hand in hand with the music, whether you're in the theater or listening at home.
Do yourself a favor, PLEASE, it will be for YOU. BUY this recording...for yourself, and anyone else. It is the be and end all of "Follies" recordings. The performances here, especially Bernadette Peters', are NOT to be missed. If you're a fan of Peters, if you're a fan of Sondheim, if you're a fan of Musical Theatre, or Theatre in general....get this album now. You will not have a single regret, nor will you look back.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2011
My journey to discovering Follies happened largely by accident. Looking to see a show on Broadway with a friend we both decided on Follies. My previous knowledge of the play was minimal at best, knowing only of Stephen Sondheim and his reputation as a genius. Everything seemed to be going against us that day. Our train was late, we didn't buy tickets in advance, and on top of all that Hurricane Irene was preparing to hit us the next day! And yet everything went even better than planned. Thanks to our neighbor sitting next to us in the theater we got a background about the play. It was originally brought to the stage in 1971, included Yvonne De Carolo(of Munsters fame), and according to him was the best play he'd ever seen. To make a long story short I can't speak for the 1971 play since I've never seen it, but 2011 Follies was one of the best plays I'd ever seen. It's so unlike anything I'd seen on Broadway. It was a play for grown ups about aging, marriage, regrets, and everything in between.
The cd I am happy to report was able to hold on to the spirit of the musical. Bernadette Peters is amazing seemlessly capturing the broken and shattered Sally. Elaine Paige is magnificent and show stopping, but the real revelation for me at least was Jan Maxwell who sings with real passion especially on the number "Could I Leave You?" Do yourself a favor and buy this cd. It's magical and gets deeper and better with each listen.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 2011
The twentieth century was worth enduring since Stephen Sondheim was on hand to sum it up. If anyone still doubts that Follies is one of the towering masterpieces of the American musical theater, he needs to hear this new recording. The cast is superb, the orchestrations sound richer than ever, and the inclusion of much of the dialogue allows for a deeper appreciation of the work as a whole than was possible in previous recordings.
When the show first opened, it was commonplace to applaud the songs and dismiss the book as second rate. Perhaps because the actors are all so splendid, the book sounds damned good in this recording, spare and ironic, but filled with haunting lines that segue effortlessly into the ironic nostalgia of Sondheim's songs.
I remember Bernadette Peters as the slapstick ingenue on the Carol Burnett Show. It would have been difficult to imagine back then that she would ever grow into the stunning singing actress that she is now. Listen to her opening lines in the Prologue. The show has barely started and already I'm on the verge of tears. And Jan Maxwell is a diamond studded tigress as Phyllis. The Saga of Lucy and Jessie never sounded better, and Could I Leave You? will take your breath away.
In Follies, the men generally tend to take a back seat to the women, but not Danny Burstein's Buddy. His portrayal of a decent man trapped in a tortured marriage is heartbreaking and both his solos are show stoppers. Ron Raines is good as Ben, but he doesn't makes the same indelible impression as the other three.
Elaine Page (with a remarkably good American accent) is the sexiest Carlotta I've ever heard, but she seems to slur her words a few times in I'm Still Here ("HerberJedgarhoovah") which is unfortunate. And Jayne Houdyshell as Hattie and Terri White as Stella are splendid.
I cannot recommend this recording highly enough. Like the characters in Follies, I tend to be caught up in the glorious past of the American musical theater, without too much positive to say about it's condition in the present day. I don't get to look forward to the release of new Broadway cast recordings that often anymore. I've been waiting for this one for months, and I am not disappointed. And it will probably be a very long time before I hear another one this satisfying again.
Now, if someone would just have the foresight to film this performance so that those of us who can't get to New York will have a chance to see and cherish it.
23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2012
The Real problem with this recording as it is with many B'way recordings of the last decade is the micro-managing sculpturing of the sound. The voices play at the same level whether whispering or projecting. And when they belt, like Elaine Paige does at the end of "I'm Still Here", the sound becomes pinched, thinning out as if only certain frequencies were allowed to be recorded. And then there's the air around them: I guess the engineers are judging everything by their readouts instead of their ears because the singers sound like they're in an acoustically dead room, there are no harmonics floating in the air, the voices seem to have less than twelve inches before they hit an invisible dead wall. This doesn't sound like live music, this sounds like a museum recording, which is a shame because this could have been a real keepsake recording. Digital seems to be the bane of Broadway Cast albums. I wish someone would do something about it.
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Follies, one of Sondheim's many masterpieces, is a wonder. The music is all things at different times--a score to be consumed greedily, to be considered languidly, to be shared, to be hoarded. It gives such pleasure to listen, all by oneself, singing "In Buddy's Eyes" at the top of your impassioned lungs. To explore the Road You Didn't Take (I don't remember, I don't remember at all...not at all). Bernadette Peters has long been for me *the* interpreter of Sondheim (ever since her stunning "Sunday in the Park with George' and heart-wrenching "Into the Woods", not to mention her many Sondheim recitals). Follies is a timeless score, and having Peters, and the immortal and magnificent Elaine Page on the same record is sheer casting perfection. The two disc set is everything you could hope for as a fan of Follies. This is now my fourth version of the show (original cast, concert version, london version) and each has something remarkable to recommend it. This is a fine place to start if you have never heard this remarkable music before, but for those of us who have loved this piece for decades, this is a real gift. Unreservedly recommended for so many reasons--Sondheim's ravishing score, the incomparable Bernadette Peter's magnificent interpretation of Sally, Elaine Page's star turn as Carlotta, Jayne Houdyshell's memorable Hattie, and the truly memorable Dan Burstein's Buddy...so much to love, so much to break your heart, so much to make you sing.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2012
I was lucky enough to have seen the 2011 Broadway revival of FOLLIES three times-- once at its first preview (where the audience response was electric-- every FOLLIES queen had to have been there), again at a later preview (not as electric, but still something), and a week before it closed in January 2012 (where things went awry). At the start of the run, Bernadette Peters as Sally was playing a slightly demented, delusional woman was nuance and pathos. By the end of the run, Ms. Peters was more mannered and self-indulgent than her SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE co-star, Mandy Patinkin (who was curiously restrained during his concert run with Patti LuPone the same year, but I digress...)
Thankfully, the nuanced Peters comes through on this recording. She is in the finest voice on a cast album she's been in since SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE. She plays Sally differently than the girly and warm, yet equally demented take Dorothy Collins had on the part in 1971. This is a Blanche DuBois-esque Sally. It is a shame she went awry by the end of the run.
Her co-stars, though, every time I saw Eric Shaeffer's elegant production, remained outstanding during the entire run, and of course, on this album. Jan Maxwell brings warmth and humility to the ice queen named Phyllis Stone, Ron Raines is a fine Ben, and the cast's standout, Danny Burstein, is a Buddy for the ages, making us sympathize with a once pitiful and unlikeable glad-handler. Elaine Paige also pulls through with a fierce "I'm Still Here", that is less of the anthem of survival Yvonne DeCarlo first sang, but an angry statement of disappointment.
I was glad to hear that this production was to be preserved, especially because of Maxwell and Burstein's performances. But I did not expect to be bowled over completely by a definitive cast album of a masterpiece, despite always admiring the fine PS Classics label and the album producer, Tommy Krasker. This recording is a gem-- capturing not only Stephen Sondheim's masterful score and Jonathan Tunick's splendid orchestration, but in a true shocker, much of the original James Goldman book. You see, Goldman revised FOLLIES heavily until his death in 1998, and his widow has become most protective of latter versions of the book, rather than the surrealistic and superb original version. (It has been reported that Sondheim has always preferred Goldman's original text.) For some odd reason, the Widow Goldman allowed Krasker to not only record much of the dialogue, but much of the original dialogue from 1971. This is quite a treat for any FOLLIES lover.
So not only do we get a beautifully produced recording of a great Sondheim score with its original orchestrations with a fine cast to boot, but we get some original Goldman gems not heard since closing night of the original staging in 1972.
FOLLIES has never been a mainstream hit. Despite a fine set of reviews for this production, and good business early on, business faltered by December, and houses were half empty by January. (The performance I attended for the last time in January had a particularly tepid audience response.) I suppose it is too much of a "boutique" musical about growing older, the road not taken and disillusion and delusion for the MAMMA MIA! (and in 1971, NO, NO NANNETTE) crowd. But thankfully, after a botched original cast album, it has finally gotten the album it deserves.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2011
In 1971, I was 17 years-old and was just being introduced into the world of Broadway theatre. Stephen Sondheim had two shows running at the same time, COMPANY and FOLLIES. My boyfriend, who had taken me to my first Broadway show, was a Sondheim fan, but he did not attempt to influence my taste at all. I liked COMPANY, which was his favorite, but FOLLIES was the one I really fell in love with back then. I saw it three times, including the most memorable closing night I have ever attended. FOLLIES remains my favorite musical to this day. I was aware that many people (including most critics) didn't "get" it, which I never understood. Even at 17 I was able to appreciate the heartbreaking storyline and amazing emotional experience it proffered. Although it ran 522 performances, the original production was a financial disaster, since it was so expensive to stage that the show required a consistent full-house just to break even. I didn't realize it then, but I had been privileged to see a theatrical legend, and FOLLIES had an impact that still stays with me, 40 years later.
Although I loved the show, the original cast album of FOLLIES was a huge disappointment. Not only did space limitations necessitate the deletion of several songs, many that were retained for the recording were cut to the bone. Hoping to recapture the magic, I eagerly acquired every successive recording of the score, and saw the 2001 revival, bringing several friends and promising them the experience of a lifetime. When some of the critics said of the original production that FOLLIES was good, "despite the book," Mr. Sondheim, as I recall, corrected them to say that FOLLIES was good "because of the book." I concur, but I was far less thrilled with the 2001 production. It wasn't until later that I discerned the reason - I had a copy of the original play as published by Random House in 1971, and when I compared it to the newly republished version in 2001, I discovered that Mr. Goldman, in his effort to make the show more palatable, had revised the book considerably, and in the process, had removed some of the most haunting and touching bits of dialogue. Although he has written some other great works (including the play and screenplay for The Lion in Winter), I believe that James Goldman's biggest misfire was the revisions he made to FOLLIES for the 2001 production.
I also acquired the FOLLIES IN CONCERT recording, as well as the "NEW JERSEY CAST COMPLETE RECORDING," the 2001 Revival Cast Recording and the London Cast recording, but found them all lacking for one reason or another - either the cast, changes in the songs or revisions in the orchestrations made them all less than thrilling. This was especially true for me because only a few years ago, I managed to acquire the legendary (yes it really does exist) live bootleg of the complete show, secretly recorded by an audience member during the early run of the 1971 original. Even with the dreadful audio, up until now, it was the only recording able to bring me back to the FOLLIES I loved so much.
And now, finally, there is a cast album to do the show justice. The 2011 Revival Cast is nothing short of magnificent. Before I tell you why, let me state without hesitation that I have never enjoyed a Broadway Cast Recording more, and I own 140 cast albums on CD and many more rare cast recordings on vinyl. I laughed, I cried (literally), I sang along and I was moved all over again in ways I haven't felt since 1971.
To begin with, most satisfying for me was the fact that the original orchestrations have been lovingly, painstakingly reproduced, note by wonderful note. There are many places on this recording where I thought for a moment I was listening to the original cast album; indeed, when the prologue started, until Bernadette Peters began to speak, I was sure I was hearing the prologue to the 1971 version. In fact, if it weren't for the voices of the singers, much of this recording sounds exactly like the original, except for the fact that this new recording of the score is complete. Every single glorious moment of the full score has now been preserved for all time, exactly as it should have been in 1971.
As others have mentioned here, the cast is perfect. I viewed the casting of Bernadette Peters with trepidation, as she does not have the vocal instrument that Dorothy Collins had, nor did I think she was quite right for the part of Sally. I need not have worried - as the NY Times said, "She has found her inner frump," and what she may lack in vocal ability is more than compensated by her amazingly vulnerable, touching performance. The rest of the cast is more than up to the task, and although I had to get used to the other players voices, there is not a bad moment in the entire recording. As far as I am concerned, up until now, no one could touch John McMartin's BEN, but Ron Raines gives him a run for his money. I have long been of the opinion that TOO MANY MORNINGS is Sondheim's most touching song; I don't think I've ever heard a version of it that I would label "bad". This recording does not disappoint.
The producers of this recording have thoughtfully provided several snippets of dialogue, allowing some who have never seen FOLLIES to glean a good part of the story. Even better, from listening to the finale, it appears that the original 1971 book has been restored, making this production as emotionally powerful as the original. Many people consider SWEENEY TODD to be Sondheim's masterpiece. I never argue the point, but coupled with James Goldman's amazing book, I earnestly believe that FOLLIES is Sondheim's best musical, as this recording demonstrates quite well.
Alas, I may never get to see this production, as I left my home town (NYC) five years ago, but I am certainly very happy with this recording. The only thing that could possibly make me happier would be a televised version and subsequent DVD release in full stereo.
FOLLIES is more than highly recommended - it's an essential acquisition for any musical theatre lover.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2011
Finally, a recording that does the masterpiece justice.
Saw the show at the Kennedy Center, and having seen the original had some definite reservations. Thankfully, they were blown away in the first 15 minutes, and the show proved to live up to the original in most ways. It is a true glory of the American musical theater, one of the greats. An adult musical that is not all rosy and happy, yet beautiful, moving, and ultimately heartbreaking. I understand it was even better in NY, having tweeked and made some changes and a couple of replacements (Regine'...ugh!!) for Broadway.
The CD captures all the score incredibly, plus dialogue that tells the Follies story. While I don't think so much dialogue was necessary, it doesn't detract from the quality of the recording either.
The performances are nothing short of dazzling. The leading quartet could not have been better cast.
Bernadette Peters is nothing short of brilliant. Listen to Losing My Mind and hear her slow descent into madness. It was shattering on stage, she turned Sally from a frumpy housewife into an obsessed, and ultimately psychotic and deluded broken woman.
I always felt that the role of Phyllis is flashier (she had big dancing created for Alexis Smith, who probably robbed the incredible Dorothy Collins of the Tony she deserved), has the witty lines, and is less complex than Sally. Yet Jan Maxwell does an amazing job of turning Could I leave You? from an amusing and acerbic declaration of her possible intentions, into a revelation of sheer hurt and eventually rage. It is amazing.
The men are perfectly cast. Ron Raines is the best sung Ben ever put to disc, as for his acting, his performance is all cardboard on the surface, and misery underneath, exactly as Ben is.
Danny Burstein should have won a Tony for his amazing performance as the trod upon Buddy. Complex, amusing, and eventually the real true victim of a loveless marriage. Buddy's Blues is finally performed where it makes brilliant sense.
As for the rest of the cast, remarkable in every way. The 4 young ghosts are perfectly cast, even resembling their older counterparts.
Elaine Paige easily proves why she is a star. I'm Still Here is as good a version, in a long line of exceptional performances of it, as it gets, matching the original of the great, late Yvonne DeCarlo.
Jayne Houdyshell is a delight putting over Broadway Baby. Mercifully the dreadful Regine'(ugh!) was replaced by Mary Beth Peil who is fine as Solange performing Ah Paree! And lovely to see Susan Watson (the original Kim in the original Bye, Bye, Birdie) back on stage, almost as young and fresh as ever!
Terri White stops the show with the ladies of the ensmble, young and old, on Who's That Woman? I remember vividly the brilliance of this number in the original, also stopping the show as performed by Mary McCarthy, and this version is a wonderful match. The rest of the cast are all, without exception, perfect in each role.
The show is dazzling visually, as shown in liner photos included, Gregg Barnes winning a well deserved Tony for the gorgeous costumes. It is a shame the scheduled run in NY didn't last through June, Tony voters would most assuredly have voted it as Best Revival of a Musical over the undeserving Porgy and Bess. But Tony voters (as in most awards) vote for what is fresh in the memory, and since Follies closed in January.... almost as big a crime as Two Gentlemen of Verona(??) winning the Tony for Best Musical over the original. A fact that still has theater afficianados scratching their heads.
The CD...a dream come true for Follies fans!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2011
I am once again amazed at the differences of opinion over this landmark musical, my favorite of all time! Only a work of art of this stature could cause so much heated controversy. I am grateful to own all the recorded versions, and I find that each has something unique to offer the listener.
I am going to avoid further controversy by writing only that, aside from the vocal performances of course, this version differs from the others in that it offers a good deal of dialogue from the play. This is a plus for those who have never seen FOLLIES. Remember, revivals of this musical have been few and far between and so, I would imagine, are regional performances of FOLLIES.
For the first time in its life, FOLLIES is a smash hit, certifying its status as a classic of the American Musical Theatre if indeed it ever needed such validation.
I saw FOLLIES the current revival of Follies and loved it, as I knew I would. This is the first time I have ever seen a full-scale Broadway Production of FOLLIES. The last Broadway production (the one with Blythe Danner and Polly Bergen) was much-maligned (although, I have met several people who saw it and say it was wonderful).
I myself saw the City Center ENCORES production of a few years back and I loved that one too, even though it was a bare-bones production with a severely limited run (It was a sell-out nonetheless).
That said, this new production is the one to see as it gives you all the lavish spectacle that this musical deserves. The sets and costumes alone bring a lump to one's throat and a tear to the eye. Of course, that would mean little to the casual listener.
I'm sure that those who have never seen FOLLIES in all its glory will appreciate this dialogue enhanced version, and yes, I agree that this work should be preserved on DVD. Rumors persist that a movie is finally in the works and, even though I would love to see a movie of FOLLIES, the knowledge that we would lose much of the music is a bad thing. A movie will never capture this theatrical show-within-a-show experience. You actually feel as though you were a guest at this reunion.
I sincerely hope that when this revival has finished it's run, PBS will record it for posterity on DVD.
The cast is uniformly wonderful and so I won't single anyone out for praise except Bernadette Peters because, as a major Broadway Star she obviously provided much of the impetus in getting this revival off the gound.
As a New Yorker, I had the luxury of lining up at Barnes & Noble to purchase a CD signed by all the principals and major supporting players. I am not an autograph hound but there are certain people and events for whom we make exceptions. The opportunity to meet, however briefly, Stephen Sondheim, Bernadette Peters, Elaine Page, Rosalind Elias and the rest of the glorious cast was too good to pass up.
They were all quite friendly and extremely charming.
See this revival if you can! Buy this CD whether or not you can get to see the play. Buy this CD whether or not you own any or all of the earlier versions. You won't regret it.
P.S. I see that some scalper is offering an autographed CD for $200.00. How tacky! The CD was signed less than 1 week ago. What nerve! Now you see why Legends like Stephen Sondheim don't like to give autographs. I intend to implore Amazon to take this listing down! It's just theft, plain and simple.