City Center, New York • 10 February 2007 • 8pm
Music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by James Goldman.
Part of the Encores! series. Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw. Musical Director: Eric Stern. With Victoria Clark (Sally), Donna Murphy (Phyllis), Michael McGrath (Buddy), Victor Garber (Ben), Mimi Hines (Hattie), Jo Anne Worley (Stella), Christine Baranski (Carlotta), Yvonne Constant (Solange)…
As chance had it, another semi-staged version of Follies was scheduled in New York less than a week after the London concert version. The staging concept was pretty much the same, with the orchestra on stage and a few runways and stairs. Unlike in London, the actors in New York weren’t off book, presumably to convince Equity that this was a concert version and not a staged production.
Overall, I was less impressed by the New York version because it had a lot less dramatic tension than the London concert. The principals were good, but I failed to experience the buildup of nervous energy that should occur during the first act. The performance looked and felt more like a reading of the show.
I love Victoria Clark, but her Sally was not the lost soul I think she should be. Clark should give a go at playing Phyllis: my intuition tells me she would be fine. Donna Murphy played Phyllis a bit more softly than is customary, but it gave her character some added depth that I rather enjoyed. Her line delivery was a bit too slow to keep the dramatic flow moving, though.
Michael McGrath did what he could with Buddy, which really appeared as the least well written of the four main characters. His voice failed him a few times, but he did fine with his dances. As for Victor Garber, I wasn’t completely convinced by his Ben until “Live, Laugh, Love,” which he did superbly. His nervous breakdown wasn’t quite as spine-chilling as Philip Quast’s, but it came close.
The older parts were a mixed bag. Yvonne Constant, who appeared on Broadway in La Plume de ma Tante, was an interesting alternative to Liliane Montevecchi, but her singing left much to be desired. Mimi Hines did fine with “Broadway Baby”. I liked Christine Baranski’s Carlotta… except when I didn’t like her. There were a few times when she went too hard for laughs, by changing her voice for instance… and that didn’t really suit her character.
Overall, this performance was quite enjoyable, in no small part thanks to Musical Director Eric Stern. Musical highlights included “Who’s that Woman?” and “The Story of Lucy and Jessie,” which I’ve always been partial to. We were lucky not to have to endure the official concert version of the libretto, but the dialogue was abridged, which was a shame.
I can’t wait for the next opportunity to see the show!