5 June 2019 | TheLittleSongbird
Losing my mind over this production
Love musicals and am a great admirer of Stephen Sondheim, have been for a while since 'Sweeney Todd'. Love his melodies, and disagree with those who hated the film version of 'Into the Woods' (am not one of those) who said that there were no memorable songs in that musical or that they were repetitive, happen to think 'Into the Woods' is one of his best musicals. Also love his immensely clever lyric writing.
Both of which can be found in another one of his best works 'Follies'. A musical with delicious spectacle and entertainment value, a large amount of emotional impact, memorable characters, beautiful melodies and clever lyrics. Everything a good, great even, musical ought to be. It is a shame that 'Follies' is not performed more often, and it has nothing to do with its quality as a musical but more that it is difficult to stage and perform. 'Follies' embraces the challenge of staging and performing this challenging musical and succeeds with flying colours, it is as great a production of 'Follies' as one can get.
The production is not quite perfect. Was not overly fond of the staging of the gorgeous "Losing My Mind", an emotional torch song but staged in a way that missed the point distractingly.
On the other hand, there are so many excellent qualities. The production looks great with sumptuous but not too fussy and never garish production and costume design (wasn't overly fond of Imelda Staunton's Sally's wig though), theatrical but not overly nostalgic. "Losing My Mind" aside, the direction does a truly great job making the proceedings always energetic and entertaining and the spectacle as eye-catching as possible without any overblown camp. All while never losing the emotion and intensity of the drama and the complexity of the characters, cleverly emphasising the duality of them without falling into confusion.
It's beautifully performed musically, the orchestral playing has power, character and nuance and the conducting was alert yet also sensitive. Really liked that songs that are not really among my favourites from the show but were surprising highlights here in this production.
'Follies' has terrific performances all round. Imelda Staunton's performance as Sally was filled with depth and emotion, she may have not been right physically strictly speaking for the role but everything else about her performance more than makes up for it. Despite preferring "Losing My Mind" usually, the staging and interpretation in "In Buddy's Eyes" moved me much more and much more akin to what the song is really about. The Ben of Phillip Quast goes from condescending to tortured more than believably and he sounds as great as ever. Janie Dee is deliciously sardonic and Tracie Bennett delights in her increasing defiance. Peter Forbes is no less inferior.
On the whole, great. 9/10