‘Follies’ review – Sondheim’s musical returns to the National with glamour and charisma

After a sold-out run at the National Theatre last year, Stephen Sondheim’s classic returns in a marvellous spectacle full of life, pizazz and soul – ★★★★½

In a sense, Sondheim’s Follies is somewhat self-referential. A musical about a musical’s cast coming together to remember the past is the perfect foundation to celebrate nostalgia, companionship and life itself.

It’s 1971 and former Follies girls gather to party on the stage of the Weisman Theatre in New York before it’s demolished. In a story which flickers between the past and the present, it’s a production which truly captures the magic of theatre as previous relationships resurface.

Whizzing through over 20 musical numbers, every song carries a unique cinematic performance aided by sensational vocals. Highlights include Roscoe (Bruce Graham) belting out a phenomenal rendition of Beautiful GirlsWho’s That Woman? being a joyful merging of Dawn Hope’s lead vocals and Bill Deamer’s tap choreography. Elsewhere, Janie Dee delivers a standout portrayal of the hilariously deadpan Phyllis, and Peter Forbes’ Buddy is notably impressive in Waiting for the Girls Upstairs.

Boasting a company of over 60 people (40 actors and 21 musicians), Dominic Cooke does a phenomenal job as director, while Nigel Lilley conducts an electric orchestral performance. Follies is one of those productions which is as much a display of technical excellence as it is a string of mesmerising musical numbers.

From the chaotic slapstick fanfare of Buddy’s Blues to colourful string instrumentals, there really is something for everyone in this vibrant, ethereal musical.

Follies is now playing at the Olivier Theatre until 11 May.

Production Images: Johan Persson.

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