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Geoff

Follies

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Stephen Sondheim's Follies is one of the great shows. Not quite as resonant as his masterpiece Into The Woods (I am not in the camp which finds the extended skit Sweeney Todd to have enduring value) but it is still high order theatrical music writing. So of course the latest production - National Theatre - is a must see, and I have now been twice.

 

Posting here as, despite the semi-standing-ovation at the end (a lot of US tourists in the audience?) there is something not quite right. Wonderfully staged, with perhaps the most beautiful designs (sets as well as costumes, happily the same person) on the London stage at the moment, nonetheless it didn't quite pack the punch it should have done.

 

Some weaknesses are obvious. A large British cast all doing American accents is never going to be pitch perfect, some will always be off (we are really bad at accents, with honourable exceptions such as Ruth Wilson and Dominic West, currently starring, not coincidentally, in the US). The wonderful Imelda Staunton (who I had the honour of working with briefly on the umpteenth revival of Guys and Dolls a few decades ago) is never going to convince as a showgirl, even a "little" one. And at least one of the cast couldn't actually articulate the delicious words in her (mercifully) only number (I immediately got out the essential Sondheim book, Finishing the Hat, to check what she was singing - this is a show which is almost as enjoyable to read as it is to see). 

 

But all such niggles would have barely been noticed if the whole had delivered. Still puzzling over what was missing. Anyone feel as I do?

 

 

Edited by Geoff

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I am going to see this at the end of December, so I will let you know then, Geoff.  Are you comparing it to a previous production?  I've never seen it before, so I won't have that comparison to make. 

 

I went to see a version of Guys and Dolls at the Savoy theatre a few years ago, and while it had a well known cast and had excellent reviews, I thought that production was somewhat lacking as well.   This is because I still remember one at the National done in the early 80s, which was so wonderful.  Nothing could ever measure up to that.

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Good question Fonty and I have been brooding on how to answer. It certainly isn't a matter of comparing with a long ago memory: without checking I couldn't tell you how often I have seen this show before, or even how many separate productions, my memory isn't up even to that never mind nuances.

 

No, my puzzle is rather whether, despite a cast I (mostly) admire and a truly magnificent staging, with great response from much of the audience, whether it was actually just me; or this production; or possibly, this work itself, so relentlessly clever and so insistently inauthentic (every number is a different parody of a different kind of era/author). Or even just something apparently insignificant, like they should have kept it with an interval rather than doing it straight through so it got a bit wearying

 

You will certainly have an excellent evening, and I very much hope you are in the category of jumping-up-at-the-end-and-cheering: it is such an expensive show to mount, I doubt whether we will have it back in London again for a long time!

 

Edited by Geoff

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