Shows F

FOLLIES musical in one act. Book by James Goldman. Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Produced at the Winter Garden, New York, 4 April 1971 with Alexis Smith (Phyllis), John McMartin (Ben), Dorothy Collins (Sally) and Gene Nelson (Buddy). Produced at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London, in a revised version, 21 July 1987 with Diana Rigg, Daniel Massey, Julia McKenzie and David Healy. STORY It is 1970 and on the stage of the Weismann Theatre, New York, the eponymous Dimitri Weismann has gathered together the surviving players of his lavish pre-war Follies, from the silver screen goddess Carlotta Campion to the most nondescript chorine, for a first and last reunion: an invitation "to glamorize the old days, stumble through a song or two and lie about ourselves" -before the theatre is demolished to make way for a parking lot. As Roscoe serenades those Beautiful Girls, the now-elderly ing6nues and matronly starlets, veterans of a more innocent age of entertainment, descend the famous Follies staircase one last time. For Sally and Phyllis, both now married to their respective stage-door Johnnies, Buddy and Ben, the theatre seems haunted by their younger selves, the giddy hopefuls of 1940. Don't Look At Me, Sally babbles to Ben as they meet for the first time in years. But they're both glad they came. Once the party gets under way it isn't long before the regulars are gleefully dusting off their old acts: Theodore and Emily Whitman recall their sweetly naive duct, Rain on the Roof: Solange purrs her way through the fake Gallic sophistication of Ah, Paree!; and Hattie proclaims again that she's, indestructibly, a Broadway Baby. For Ben and Buddy, too, the memories of three decades come flooding back - all those hours after the show Waiting for the Girls Upstairs in their dressing rooms - but for Ben these memories awake old regrets as he looks back at a lifetime of lost opportunities (The Road You Didn't Take). Sally tells Ben about her life with Buddy in Arizona - cooking, flower-arranging, trips to the mall, but In Buddy's Eyes, she knows, she's still his princess. Yesterday, though, tells another story: young Sally and young Ben pledging their love. And, in the haze of nostalgia, the past seems to be seeping into the present. As Stella leads the 1940 Follies girls through "the mirror number" (Who's That Woman), shadowy wraiths of their younger selves mimic their movements. For Sally and Buddy, Phyllis and Ben, the resurrection of their distant pasts only serves to point out the inadequacies of their marriages. Only Carlotta seems relaxed and philosophical about the old days: good times, bum times, she's grateful just to have got through it, and confidently declares I'm Still Here. Seeing Sally again, Ben realises he's spent Too Many Mornings dreaming of her. If you don't kiss me, " Sally tells him, I think I'm going to die." Young Phyllis, Ben, Sally and Buddy taunt their disillusioned older selves with the failed promises of youth. Ben tells Sally that he no longer loves her, that for him "all of it was over years ago". For Buddy, life is all about findingThe Right Girl and he has, sort of. a 23-year old called Margie. But you can't turn the clock back: as Heidi Schiller reminds us in an eerie operetta waltz, all dreams are a sweet mistake and eventually we have to face reality: all we can hope for is One More Kiss - and a brief glimpse of those dreams. Phyllis, having successfully seduced Kevin, one of the waiters, is by now wondering Could I Leave You and live without Ben, without his sneered jokes, his loveless love-making, his dreary big-shots from the UN. Ben, goaded, starts to argue with Phyllis, and soon Sally and Buddy, together with their younger selves, join in. They all shout hysterically at each other, screaming out all the bitterness that has, until now, been more or less repressed. At the height of the confrontation the orchestra suddenly swells and Loveland calls, luring them back to a playground of overwhelming optimism, where skies are ever blue. On the drab stage of the derelict theatre Loveland rises - the apotheosis of a Weismann Follies set, a fabulous wedding cake reaching for the stars, an enchanted citadel where the two couples can re-visit their individual follies. The young sweethearts