The audience needs to be on its toes to work out what’s going on in Stephen Sondheim’s Follies. Who belongs to whom, who did belong to whom, who’s who now and who was who? The plot revolves around two couples meeting up after some time and finding the flame still burns between the husband of one and the wife of the other who had been together 30 years before.
The couples’ alter egos from that time share the stage with them, with subtle lighting changes moving the spotlight from one to the other. They duet with each other and with their earlier selves, and at one point 1970s man dances with 1940s girl. The mix is deftly handled by director/choreographer Nikki Mundell-Poole and musical director Jill Parkin, with strong performances in the four lead roles from David Slater, Pauline Roast, Nicholas Clough and Liz Watson.
Will Ashbey, Shelly Fisher, Philip Mennell and Holly Wendes shine too as their younger versions, with Holly. in particularly leaping out of character in a delightful dance routine towards the end.
Sondheim clearly had in mind a large company when he wrote this as he cleverly gives over the stage for a number of solo performances, giving Judy Fishwick – a particularly enchanting “Ah Paris” – Cynthia Stead, Anne Wilson, Janet Wash, Pat Briggs and Lucy Taylor a chance to shine.
The show is not Sondheim’s most accessible and lacks familiar or rousing tunes for the audience to hum along to. The score itself is also a difficult one to master, so congratulations are due to all the singers for getting their voices round it. What it lacks in readymade tunes, it makes up for in glamour. The costumes are dazzling and the changes quick and fast, making movement behind the scenes, one suspects, even more frenetic than on stage.
Review by Ron Fosker
WITHAM AMATEUR OPERATIC SOCIETY
Director & Choreographer Nikki Mundell-Poole
Follies which was set in a crumbling Broadway Theatre during a reunion of the Weismann's Follies, between the World Wars with a story line which focused on two couples, Buddy and Sally Durant Plummer, and Ben and Phyllis Rogers Stone. With a large cast in an all singing, all
dancing production Nikki did so well with this production .
The costumes were fabulous; they all looked in pristine condition and really added to the glamour of the whole evening.
The mix of people in the show also worked so well. How good it was to hear wonderful songs sung by ladies and gentlemen who really knew how to deliver them. Liz Watson playing Sally, and Nicholas Clough playing Buddy, were excellent. Liz singing “Losing my Mind” was very moving, and Nick really shone in the character of Buddy with some excellent timing and interpretation of the dialogue.
Likewise David Slater as Ben and Pauline Roast as Phyllis were well matched. David had a really good voice and lovely tone in his sung numbers, and Pauline made the most of her numbers also.
I so enjoyed all the ladies songs. Cynthia Stead as Hattie Walker gave us a fabulous “Broadway Baby” and Janet Wash as Carlotta Campion's “I'm Still here” was great. There was not one weak link throughout
Jill Parkin as Musical Director was very energetic and kept a good pace throughout. At times with underscoring the Orchestra was rather loud which tended to overpower some of the soloists, but in the main the sound from the pit was excellent. Many congratulations to everyone in the show and another triumph for Nikki who should be delighted with a terrific production.