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Washington DC by Tracy Lyon

Follies

Also see Tracy's recent review of The Play About the Baby

The first thing one notices when they travel through Signature Theatre's corridor and enter the performance space is the dilapidation. Damaged theater seats and hanging beams appear to be the result of years of neglect. Rest assured that the good folks at Signature have not let the place go. The theater's decay can be attributed to their latest production, James Goldman and Stephen Sondheim's Follies.

One of the things Signature has always done best is to set the mood for a piece, and they have really hit the mark with this one. From the outstanding set by Lou Stancari and the dramatic lighting by Chris Lee down to the striking costumes by Robert Perdziola - all of the elements work. The skilled direction by Eric Schaeffer completes the picture.

Follies takes place at the old Weismann Theatre. Thirty years before, this was the home of opulent presentations that featured beautiful showgirls. However, those extravaganzas belong to another time and now the beloved theater is being torn down to make way for a parking lot. Before this sad event can take place, Dimitri Weismann gathers his "girls" together one last time. What follows is a story of love, disappointment and self-realization.

The score by Stephen Sondheim is a wonderment and Jonathan Tunick's orchestrations are excellent. Sondheim understands human strengths and frailties and it comes through in his music. In this score, he manages to capture a range of emotions as evidenced in songs such as the heartwrenching "Losing My Mind" and his well-known anthem of determination, "I'm Still Here."

FolliesThe score is delivered by an extremely strong cast. Judy McLane (pictured right) is simply elegant as Phyllis. Not only is she incredibly poised, but she also shows that she can handle the earthier side of her character. As Sally, Florence Lacey gives a seamless performance. Her portrayal is lovely and quite natural. Unfortunately, there are times when her voice seems to be competing with the volume of the orchestra. Nonetheless, both ladies show immense prowess during their musical numbers.

The men in their lives are played by Joseph Dellger (Ben Stone) and Harry A. Winter (Buddy Plummer). Signature alum Harry A. Winter is quite lovable as Buddy. His warmth is communicated all the way to the top row of the audience. As Ben, Mr. Dellger is a sophisticate who is the perfect foil for Ms. McLane's Phyllis. Yet, he brings a softness to the role that makes Ben likable even when the character seems to be without merit.

Playing the younger version of these four characters are Will Gartshore (Young Buddy), Tracy Lynn Olivera (Young Sally), Sean MacLaughlin (Young Ben) and A.K. Brink (Young Phyllis). Mr. Gartshore and Ms. Olivera are especially strong during the second act where the audience is treated to the full force of their talent.

Of course, one can't forget those "Beautiful Girls." As former showgirl Carlotta Campion, Donna Migliaccio shines. Her performance of "I'm Still Here" is thrilling. Equally talented is Judy Simmons (Hattie Walker) who provides one of the many high points in the show when she belts out "Broadway Baby."

The Signature has done right by this Sondheim piece. It is visually captivating and emotionally compelling. Most certainly, Follies is the shining star of Signature's current season. Follies runs though June 1st.

The Signature Theatre
Follies
April 1st - June 1st
Book by James Goldman
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick
Choreography by Karma Camp
Directed by Eric Schaeffer
3806 S. Four Mile Run Drive
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: 703-218-6500 or 1-800-955-5566 or www.sig-online.org

Cast List

Young Hattie: Kristi Ambrosetti
Young Solange: Jennifer Andersen
Stella Deems: Suzanne Briar
Young Phyllis: A.K. Brink
Sam Deems: Bernie Cohen
Dee Dee West: Gilly Conklin
Kevin, the Waiter: David Covington
Theodore Whitman: Steven Cupo
Young Emily: Chrystyna Dail
Dimitri Weismann: Paul Danaceau
Ben Stone: Joseph Dellger
Emily Whitman: Ilona Dulaski
Young Stella: Eleasha Gamble
Young Buddy: Will Gartshore
Sandra Donovan: Nancy Grosshans
Young Carlotta: Deanna Harris
Young Sandra: Eva Kolig
Heidi Schiller: Dana Krueger
Sally Durant Plummer: Florence Lacey
Young Ben: Sean MacLaughlin
Young Heidi: Claire Mailhot
Phyllis Rogers Stone: Judy McLane
Vanessa, the Waitress: Elizabeth McNamara
Carlotta Campion: Donna Migliaccio
Young Sally: Tracy Lynn Olivera
Roscoe: Joe Peck
Hattie Walker: Judy Simmons
Young Dee Dee: Jessica Thompson
Solange La Fitte: Elizabeth van den Berg
Ghost: Vanessa Vaughn
Buddy Plummer: Harry A. Winter
Chorus: David Covington, Brad Nacht, Joseph E.M. Pindelski, Eduardo Placer, Robert W. Tudor


Photo by Carol Pratt


-- Tracy Lyon


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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