Follies is an absolute dream of a production. I was eager to get tickets but when I checked it had sold out. My saving grace was the amazing scheme the National Theatre do for Friday Rush tickets. Every Friday at 1pm tickets are released on a first-come-first-served-basis for £20 limited to 2 per customer. Safe to say I was in that online queue with bags of time and I grabbed myself a ticket.
The staging of the production gives the feel and presence of a dilapidated theatre with a glimpse into its glamorous past through the lit up Follies sign on the crumbled set – a perfect insight to the show before it has begun. With a book by James Goldman and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Follies is a window to the past, from the reunion of the Follies girls in New York 1971 to their individual reminiscing of their showgirl past. With design by Vicki Mortimer, direction from Dominic Cooke, and choreography by Bill Dreamer, the show oozes old-age charm. Each of the Follies girls’ younger selves appear in gorgeous dazzling costume to bring to life an echo of the past.
Follies creates an acute sense of nostalgia for the disappearing showbiz glamour, the ostrich feather clad showgirls are a mere impression of the lingering spirit. Still with Dreamer’s choreography, the delightfully classic routines are revived and performed with dedication to the showgirl age, although the sadness of it all is still in abundance.
Cooke’s production really stands out as a beautiful revival. From the intricate detail of the character’s younger selves portraying a young naiveté, the juxtaposition between exciting showgirl days when life is ahead of you to the mature cast reflecting on their lives and what theyhave achieved is chilling. The duality between the two lives is extraordinary. The whole production puts life into perspective and made me contemplate its fragility. The cast includes Janie Dee as Phyllis Rogers Stone, Imelda Staunton as Sally Durant Plummer, and Philip Quast and Peter Forbes playing their respective husbands; the show’s focus lies on the reunion of these couples and their regrets. The immense scale of this show is reflected in its 37-strong cast, also including Tracie Bennett, Zizi Strallen, Alex Young, Fred Haig, and Adam Rhys-Charles.
Imelda Staunton gives a breathless excitement to Sally as she goes in search for her lost love. Her pinnacle number “Losing My Mind” is delivered with an intense sense of desperation and misplaced hope. Janie Dee completely steals the show with her portrayal of Phyllis, bringing the house down with her number “Could I Leave You?”, her sass and wit has no end.
The ghost of everyone’s past is rife with problems as everyone seems to have regrets. This contemplative musical will have you humming the tunes whilst also leaving you with a foreboding sense of only having one shot at life.