San Francisco Playhouse stages Sondheim’s ‘Follies’

San Francisco Playhouse opens another first-class musical this week – Stephen Sondheim’s Follies, described by The New York Times as “One of the greatest musicals ever written”.

Directed by Bill English, Follies has a book by American playwright, novelist and screenwriter, James Goldman, who won an Academy Award for the screen adaptation of his play The Lion in Winter. Goldman also wrote the screenplays for Robin and Marion, Nicholas and Alexandra and White Nights, and other stage plays include Evening Primrose – his second collaboration with Stephen Sondheim – Oliver Twist, Anna Karenina, Anatasia: The Mystery of Anna, and Tolstoy.

Dimitri Weisman (Louis Parnell) welcomes his guests

The late Stephen Sondheim – referred to by The New York Times as a “titan of the American musical” – is well known for both his music and lyrics. In addition to Follies – his seventh Broadway production – he wrote both songs and words for shows such as Saturday Night, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods. He is equally well known for having written the lyrics for Bernstein’s West Side Story, for Jule Styne’s score for Gypsy, for Richard Rogers’ Do I Hear a Waltz? and additional lyrics for Bernstein’s Candide.

‘Beautiful Girls’ – a scene from Sondheim’s ‘Follies’

Follies is set in 1971 in the deteriorating Broadway theatre of impresario Dmitri Weismann, before it closes for demolition. It tells of a reunion of girls who had performed in Weismann’s Follies between the two world wars, and how they reminisce about their past in songs which they had sung in their earlier performances. The focus of Follies falls on two middle-aged couples, each with a failing marriage, as they face up to some unpleasant truths about their respective pasts, and confront the future.

As producer Ted Chapin says in his memoir about the show’s original production – When Everything Was Possible – “It is really about the effects the past has on the present and the future”. Music Theatre International says, Follies is “Surreal, sophisticated, compelling, heart wrenching and epic in scope … a true showcase for powerful dramatic actors.”

Chachi Delgado as Young Buddy, Samantha Rose Cárdenas as Young Sally, Danielle Cheiken as Young Phyllis, and Cameron LaBrie as Young Ben in ‘Waiting for the Girls Upstairs’

Follies earned seven 1972 Tony Awards, the 1971 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical, two 1971 Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Music and Lyrics respectively, the 1987 Olivier Award for Best Musical, and an Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival in 2017. 

This production of Follies stars Natascia Diaz as former showgirl Sally Durant Plummer, Samantha Rose Cárdenas as Young Sally, Anthony Rollins-Mullens as Sally’s travelling salesman husband Buddy Plummer, and Chachi Delgado as Young Buddy. Maureen McVerry is Phyllis Rogers Stone – also a former showgirl – Danielle Cheiken is Young Phyllis, Chris Vettel is Benjamin Stone her self-absorbed husband, Cameron La Brie is Young Benjamin and Louis Parnell is impresario Dimitri Weismann.

Phyllis Rogers Stone (Maureen McVerry), Sally Durant Plummer (Natascia Diaz), Solange LaFitte (Jill Slyter), Carlotta Campion (Cindy Goldfield), and the Follies ensemble (Emily Corbo, Ann Warque, Catrina Manahan, and Samantha RoseCárdenas) join in the fun

Music Direction by is Dave Dobrusky and choreography by Nicole Helfer.

Follies runs at the San Francisco Playhouse from July 20 – September 10, 2022. For further information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Playhouse website.

All photos by Jessica Palopoli

Information sourced from:
San Francisco Playhouse program notes
Everything Sondheim
MTI Shows
The National Theatre

ArtsPreview home page

Comments are closed.