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Follies

PS Classics

 

For anyone unfamiliar with Sondheim's legendary war horse "Follies," it is a show about aging showgirls and their spouses trenchant with memories of what might have been. They all gather for a reunion at the theater that brought them together on the night before the relic is torn down. The story is loosely one of nostalgia, lost dreams, survival and roads not taken. It is a pastiche of melancholia with some camp. Mostly, it makes a statement about survival. This cast album of the original Broadway revival on PS Classics was released in stores on November 29, 2011.

This production of Follies first played The Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater in Washington, D C from May 7, 2011 until June 19, 2011. Due to its great success, it transferred to Broadway and opened at the Marquis Theatre on September 12, 2011. Directed by Eric Schaeffer with choreography by Warren Carlyle, Follies features a cast of 41 that includes stars like, Tony winner Bernadette Peters as Sally Durant Plummer, four-time Tony nominee Jan Maxwell as Phyliss Rogers Stone, two-time Tony nominee Danny Burstein as Buddy Plummer, three-time Tony nominee Ron Raines as Benjamin Stone and Olivier Award winner and five-time nominee Elaine Paige as Carlotta Campion. Music director James Moore conducts the 28-piece orchestra using Jonathan Tunick's original orchestrations for the production.

The original production of Follies opened at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York City on April 4, 1971. It received the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical and seven Tony Awards – including Best Score. Several well publicized productions have been mounted over the years including a stellar cast event that was recorded on disc and DVD of Follies In Concert at Lincoln Center in 1981 as well as an acclaimed production at Paper Mill Playhouse in 1998. The show is moving on to the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles for a limited run from May 3 through June 9, 2012 with Victoria Clarke replacing Bernadette Peters in the role of Sally Durant Plummer.

It should be noted that many of the songs have become staples of Broadway showcases and many singers' songbooks. However, this is a show that should be seen. It is more effective visually than it is on any disc. Above all, it should be seen for optimum effect. This is mainly due to the fine acting by the main characters and the terrific ensemble. That, and the the fact that the music often serves as a subtext to the action and the emotions unfolding. That aside, PS classics has turned out an excellent, high quality recording under the helm of producer Tommy Krasker.

The main characters are the two unhappily married couples that mold the core of the storyline. If they can't carry their considerable heft , the show falls flat. No worries here, They positively radiate on this recording. Jan Maxwell excels notably in Could I Leave You? She begins with abundant sweetness and crescendos to a shattering resentment that climaxes in a guttural rage. Bernadette Peters is intriguing as the deeply unhappy housewife on the verge of a breakdown. Her Sally is uneven but hits the mark nore often than not. Her Losing My Mind is somewhat bridled on the disc. However, when performing live, she was shattering. Here, she is heartbreaking, yet with less profundity than in her live performance.

The men are exceptional. Ron Raines' lush baritone is used with authority and grace, He is able to generate many emotions that serve his character to perfection. Danny Burstein almost steals the show with his broad interpretation of Buddy that is electric on many levels. His musicality is flawless and his acting conveys a natural self-loathing that others have often missed as he also fuses loneliness and a hopeless love for his wife, who is still in love with someone else. His humanity sells his character in a way that is unforgettable.

Other roles like Terri White's bravura turn on Who's That Woman? is extremely well-crafted as she simply  creates a force of nature to be reckoned with that has the ladies' attempting to recreate yesterday's dance routines only to fade into the ghosts of who they once were by their younger alter-egos. As noted earlier, referring to the visuals of this show; this is particularly one of those numbers that needs to be seen to be fully effective. Elaine Paige's heartfelt I'm Still Here is totally absorbing and filled with the depth only a qualified veteran could bring to the stage with her. Her solo is stunningly captured here. Retired opera diva Rosalind Elias, at 82, is poignant and tender on One More Kiss sung with a remarkable technique that rivets. Jane Houdyshell brings warmth and heft to a gutsy Broadway Baby.

It is insightful on the part of Mr. Krasker that he cleverly includes much of the lead-in dialogue making it possible for the listener to understand the context of the the songs. These tracks can also be skipped.

 PS Classics continues to celebrate the heritage of Broadway and the American popular song. Follies is one of the examples.