Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Follies To Remember

You wanna get a rise out of a theater queen? Mention "Follies," and you will get a diatribe from any theater lover about it. They love it, they hate it, the original is best, no one can touch it, it's imperfect, it should have been rewritten, no one should be reviving it. You will hear almost everything there is to hear. As for me, as a musical, I admired it more than I loved it. After I saw this latest production at The Marquis Theater, I realized why I had felt this way. I had not been ready for it then, but as I approach (I dare say I am at) middle age, I realized that finally got it. But I didn't just get it - this show touched me more profoundly. I found myself weeping after the curtain fell down, and as I thought about it more, I was still at a loss as to why I reacted that way. I had only seen clips of the original, and saw the Roundabout Production a couple of years back so I will not even attempt to compare/contrast any of the productions. All I know is that when they sang "Too Many Mornings" in this production, there was something about the song, the lyrics that got to me. When Bernadette Peters, as the dowdy housewife Sally (who would have thought?) sings the following lyric with a quiver in her fragile voice, I found myself trembling, excited, fearful. 

How I planned:
What I'd wear tonight and
When should I get here,
How should I find you,
Where I'd stand,
What I'd say in case you didn't remember.
How I'd remind you--
You remembered.
And my fears were wrong!
Was it ever real?
Did I ever love you this much?
Did we ever feel
So happy then?

A lot of people have made comments that they don't like how Ms. Peters interprets her role here, that is, she is literally playing it like she is crazy, thus making her interpretation of "Losing My Mind" literal. But I have to say that of all these years of seeing shows, I have only seen few performance like hers: emotionally raw, like she ripped her heart open right there center stage for everyone to see. I would be devastated if she doesn't win the Tony. But then again, Jan Maxwell gives her a run for her money, as the brittle Phyllis, and she is exquisite as well, and her fierce and forceful "Could I Leave You" is also one for the books. Danny Burstein and Ron Raines are great, too, and above all, this production boasts of Elaine Paige - yes the First Lady Of British Theater - as Carlotta, and she stops the show with "I'm Still Here." I can't remember the last time I felt so many emotions on one night, and I thought to myself, this - this show, this cast, this theater - this is why I go to see theater. It's the best show I have seen in a long time, a night I will never forget. 

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