Stephen Sondheim’s legendary musical is staged in spectacular style at the National Theatre, on the imposing Olivier stage, and tells the story of Weismann’s Follies girls, who gather thirty years after their final performance, where the drinks are flowing and long-forgotten memories are stirred. Here are our reasons to see this dazzling new production:
Sondheim is a musical legend for good reason. Follies packs in some of theatre’s greatest hits, including Broadway Baby, I’m Still Here and Losing My Mind. Whilst Losing My Mind is perhaps the best known number – and Imelda Staunton does it justice and then some – Tracie Bennett pretty much steals the show with her rendition of I’m Still Here.
Imelda Staunton. Janie Dee. Tracie Bennett. I really could just stop there, point you in the direction of the National Theatre box office and be done with it. Imelda is wonderful in the complex role of Sally, a true triple-threat, while Janie Dee is fabulous as Phyllis, stalking the stage and throwing out witty one-liners. Tracie Bennett as the charming Carlotta is the stand out though; she’s a joy to watch, and I’ll say it again – her I’m Still Here steals the show.
The rest of the cast is too huge to give individual special mention (Follies boasts an impressive cast of 37), but there truly isn’t a weak performance in the house.
Can I cheat and put Tracie Bennett in as her own item on this list? I think I’m going to.
Saying that you love the set is traditionally the best way to give praise to a show you really didn’t like, but that’s not the case here (promise!). The set evokes the venue’s former glory, hinting at what once was, juxtaposing a beautiful showgirl in full pearls and feathers, against a crumbling façade, and rows of iconic red theatre seats, now covered in dust. It fills the huge Olivier stage easily, and is opulently transformed for the final numbers as each character’s folly is played out, giving the audience an insight into their deepest desires.
There’s nothing like watching a huge, glorious musical. The programme boasts a few stats to give this epic show some context, including 37 cast and an orchestra of 21.
Also, no small feat for the small-bladdered amongst us, Follies runs at 2 hours 15 minutes without an interval. However, so pacy and engaging is the show, that this nervous audience member didn’t even notice the time passing, despite having enjoyed one (two) drinks on the National Theatre’s gorgeous terrace.
Follies will be screened in cinemas nationwide as part of NT Live on 16 November. There are also regular Platform talks and events. Find out more on the National Theatre website.