It’s been quite some time since I last visited the theatre, so it was an absolute treat for me to watch Follies last Friday, which currently plays at The National Theatre on London’s Southbank.
Being the theatrical type, it is hard not to have already heard of follies over the years as it features some extremely stagey musical numbers which even those who don’t enjoy or get to watch much musical theatre would have heard before.
For those who are unfamiliar with Follies, let’s get ourselves acquainted…
It shares the story of showgirls from Weismann’s Follies (based on Ziegfield’s), who attend a reunion held in the crumbling theatre where they once danced in front of the spotlights to packed out audiences. Two unhappy couples Buddy (Peter Forbes) and Sally (Imelda Staunton) and Ben (Philip Quast) and Phyllis (Jane Dee) all reconnect that night. We find out Sally was in love with Ben then and still is. As they recall and share their memories from years gone by, the past may just come back to haunt them.
They perform their old numbers and with epic performances from Di Botcher’s Broadway Baby, Tracie Bennett’s I’m Still Here and saving the best until last, Imelda Staunton’s Losing My Mind – its a production to remember with a very worthy stand in ovation at the curtain call.
Often shows consider not having an interval as they may feel it will break the atmosphere and tension that has built throughout the production. Follies is precisely one of the shows that doesn’t have an interval! It had myself and my husband discussing why they had chosen this and whether this would have resulted in a lot of people heading for the loos half way through. However, I barely noticed anyone leaving their seats as the audience were so focussed on the show.
The Follies set has been well thought out and depicts a crumbling theatre perfectly and with atmospheric lighting it gives the perfect ‘worn’ effect. The performance is staged upon a revolve that quite literally doesn’t stop revolving for the first 20 – 30 minutes of the show, which at first I found a little off putting. However once I managed to focus on who was singing or going through their dialogue, I was able to keep up. If anything, the revolve could have been slowed down or to refrain from it continually spinning round!
With a cast of 37 and and an orchestra of 21 – this production gives everything – and more which is why I have given a 5 star rating. It was once of the most spectacular musical theatre experiences I have had and worthy of the stand in ovation at the curtain call! There will soon be a live broadcast to cinemas, which I hope to get to see!