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Monday, September 04, 2017

Sensational #Sondheim #Follies #ImeldaStaunton #DiBotcher #JanieDee #TracieBennett @NationalTheatre ...

Last Thursday night Stuart and I went to the first night of the National Theatre's sensational revival of Stephen Sondheim's Follies at the Olivier Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank.

Synopsis: The Follies girls are gathering to have a few drinks, sing a few songs and lie about themselves.

This 2hr 15min straight-through production was simply wonderful. Like a massive steam train, it was perhaps a little slow to start but once it had built up a full head of steam it thundered on with show stopping hit after show stopping hit. The cast were universally dazzling, the plot deliciously complicated, and the music as joyous and lyrics as bittersweet as you would expect from Sondheim.

Set in 1971, Follies concerns a reunion in a crumbling Broadway theatre, scheduled for demolition, of the past performers of the Weismann's Follies, a musical revue (based on the Ziegfeld Follies), that played in that theatre between the two World Wars. It focuses on two couples, Buddy and Sally Durant Plummer and Benjamin and Phyllis Rogers Stone, who are attending the reunion. Sally and Phyllis were showgirls in the Follies. Both couples are deeply unhappy with their marriages. Buddy, a traveling salesman, is having an affair with a girl on the road; Sally is still as much in love with Ben as she was years ago; and Ben is so self-absorbed that Phyllis feels emotionally abandoned. Several of the former showgirls perform their old numbers, sometimes accompanied by the ghosts of their former selves. The musical numbers in the show are pastiches of the styles of the leading Broadway composers of the 1920s and 1930s, sometimes being parodies of specific songs (for example, Losing My Mind parodies George Gershwin's The Man I Love).

Tracie Bennett, Di Botcher, Janie Dee and Imelda Staunton were all stunning.

Standout numbers of the night were I'm Still Here, Losing My Mind, Broadway Baby and the simply thrilling Who's That Woman (Mirror, Mirror) that all brought the audience to its feet.

Go see.

(We are going again in two weeks!)

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