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New York Week – Follies

We’re back from a whirlwind theatre trip to New York and have a whole week of blog posts and videos about the trip.

The third (and finale) show we saw was Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece Follies. Here’s what we thought:

Transcript

Craig: Hey!

Lindsay: Hello!

Craig: Theatrefolk here and we are talking about a show we saw last night called Follies by Stephen Sondheim. Follies is a musical that is about a bygone era where we see showgirls reuniting after many, many years.

Lindsay: At a theatre that’s about to be demolished.

Craig: Yeah, and the theatre itself looked like it was about to be demolished when we walked in. The walls were covered in drab grey…

Lindsay: Tarps.

Craig: …ripped tarps, there were bare lights hanging in the audience, and it really set the scene for what was to come.

Lindsay: There was the sound of wind sort of echoing through the theatre just to…

Craig: Yeah.

Lindsay: …really set the scene.

Craig: There was a soundscape. It wasn’t unlike the soundscape outside of The Hobbit Mansion at Disneyworld. The only thing you were missing was the wolves howling.

Lindsay: And then, every once in a while, there’s like the echo of applause and it was just like you knew you were in for something special.

Craig: And we really did see something special. We have been talking about it all night and I still don’t know what to say about it.

Lindsay: Well, we were really looking forward to it and so the greatest thing I could say is that it lived up to our expectations and passed it. We are huge Sondheim fans, and we have seen a number of them, and we usually allow a lot of faults because we love the music so much. I think that Sondheim has a second act problem a lot of the times and I have to say that this is the most complete show as a whole piece – the most thoughtful, the most visionary, the most heart-breaking, the most breath-taking. And, because we know so many of the songs from Follies out of context because they’re great concert pieces, they’re shown in concert all the time. But when you see them in context with that whole notion of “Is the past better? Did we make the right decisions? Do we regret the decisions that we made? Love lost?”

Craig: Yeah, if you know, like, you probably know a lot of the songs from Follies.

Lindsay: Broadway Baby.

Craig: Losing My Mind, Buddy’s Blues. But if you, unless you know the show Follies, you don’t know anything about those songs because they are completely different in the context of the show.

Lindsay: And I have to say, this show has one of the best second act surprises that I didn’t know anything about. Craig and I went to the show, again, we know a lot of music, didn’t know the show, and literally, there is a section called Loveland that I’ve never a seen musical do. It basically ripped apart its convention and made us both sat with our mouths agape for about a good half an hour.

Craig: Yeah, there’s a build, build, build, build, build, and then bam! Like, everything changes at once – scenically, character-wise.

Lindsay: The best way that I can describe it is it showed the mental breakdown of four characters in song and dance.

Craig: Yes, and it was really something you will never see again. That’s the reason we came is because everyone said, “You’ll never see a show like this again.” It had a cast of at least 40 people.

Lindsay: Over 40!

Craig: In orchestra, I think it was around 30 people. And shows on that scale just aren’t done on Broadway anymore and certainly not material that’s as challenging as this.

Lindsay: And what we really came away with is that we’re not doing enough.

Craig: Yeah.

Lindsay: As artists, we’ve got to strive better, strive for more, strive for the epic – not bigger. Epic is not necessarily bigger. There were lots of moments in Follies that were easily staged with some lights and some heartfelt emotion. And we’ve got to be more epic and we have to strive to be the absolute top of what we can be and we cannot settle.

Craig: Yeah, and epic too. I think the show was on an epic scale and yet the only story that was really taking place was a tiny, little love quadrangle I guess you would call it.

Lindsay: And here’s a great thing, this one-act, or the first act of Follies was also an hour and a half, same as Anything Goes, felt like fifteen minutes. It was beautiful.

Craig: Yeah, that was Follies. Come and see it but it’s closing!

Lindsay: It’s closing so nah! And we’re thrilled and we’re excited that we made this trip to be able to see it and I’m not a big believer in a moment that changed my life but I think that changed my life.

Craig: Okay, me too.

About the author

Craig Mason