September 4, 2017. Olivier Theatre, NT
I loved a musical. This is pretty much unheard of. But this is Sondheim and this is the powerhouse Imelda Staunton.
This. Is. Stunning.
Set in a decaying theatre being pulled down to make way for office blocks, this is one last reunion/hurrah for Weisman’s Follies girls from 1918 to the 1940s. They have come to say good bye to the past or for some to try and rekindle their lost loves, find their voice or prove themselves still relevant.
In the first half the story of our main protagonists: Sally, Buddy, Ben and Phyllis is unravelled. We see the young and current versions of each character interact and intertwine. It’s quite beautiful. We learn of their sadness, confusion, bewilderment, frustration. We also learn the story of each of our girls: the beauty saleswoman, the 5x widowed, the lonely movie star, the cutesy dancing school couple. Each shows their glamorous youth and their now. The what ifs and the why nots.
I loved this. The old adage “never judge a book…” came to mind and each of these lives is laid bare to us in their song. Fabulous.
In the second half when it looks like our main couples will split down the middle we are introduced to their one song, their folly. It’s beautifully done. And Sondheim’s lyrics are clever and witty and poignant and sad.
It’s 2 and 1/4 hours and no interval which initially sounds incredibly daunting (and had pretty much everyone getting very strategic over drinks and bathroom visits) and it feels like 5 minutes.
It’s truly delicious to drink in the decaying glamour, the incredible costumes of the original girls. Even the way the girls move about the stage oozes the glamour of a bygone era.
Sondheim’s words are divine and incredibly emotive and emotional. And the cast is sublime. Staunton is of course at its head but the ensemble is magical.
5/5 Sondheim. Staunton. Superb.