Thursday, September 22, 2011

'Follies' On Broadway: Old-School Razzle-Dazzle Grandeur

Considering that I typically see one Broadway show a year, 2011 has been a real banner. We're up to two! In April, I saw Sister Act with buddy Mae Moose and Wednesday evening, Leo took me to see Follies.

The revival stars fave Bernadette Peters, whom I adore for the fact that she and Mary Tyler Moore host annual animal rescue event Broadway Barks—where Ayhan and I ultimately found our dearly departed Maltese Kirby. Also featured is Elaine Paige, whose duet with Barbara Dickson, "I Know Him So Well" from Chess, was my No. 8 hit of 1985.

The show, originally staged in 1971, has all the razzle-dazzle grandeur of a true Broadway extravaganza, with ornate costumes, some hands-wringing musical numbers (Stephen Sondheim) and enough drama to rattle the house.

The real find is co-lead Jan Maxwell in the role of Phyllis. The twice Tony-nominated actress' previous roles include The Sound of Music (as the Baroness), City Of Angels and The Royal Family. She puts the "d" in diva, for sure. Broadway vet Danny Burstein (Women On the Verge..., South Pacific) as Buddy also deserves an ovation as Follies' consummate showman, singing some of the most complicated and impressive Sondheim numbers in the production.

Unfortunately, Peters was ultimately a disappointment. Whether fatigued or simply not connecting with the role, she appeared distracted and did little justice to the supposedly show-stopping number "Losing My Mind." That was surprising... thankfully, her fellow cast members not only made up for her tepid performance, but trounced it.

Follies is not a giddy show: It deals with discontentment, regretting life choices and how it pretty much sucks to get older. But you might as well be entertained while your soul is smacked around. Good night!