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.
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.
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.”
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.
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