Review: Follies

A classic musical about disillusion returns to Broadway in all its troubling glory.

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  • Photograph: Joan Marcus

    Follies

    Follies at Marquis Theatre

  • Photograph: Joan Marcus

    Follies

    Follies at Marquis Theatre

  • Photograph: Joan Marcus

    Follies

    Follies at Marquis Theatre

  • Photograph: Joan Marcus

    Follies

    Follies at Marquis Theatre

  • Photograph: Joan Marcus

    Follies

    Follies at Marquis Theatre

  • Photograph: Joan Marcus

    Follies

    Follies at Marquis Theatre

Photograph: Joan Marcus

Follies

Follies at Marquis Theatre

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5

"Never look back," advises a waltz in Act II of Follies, but it's too late by then for the unhappy couples in Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman's dark, dazzling 1971 masterpiece. In a theater slated for demolition, a Ziegfeldian impresario has thrown a party for cast members of the lavish revues that he staged there decades earlier—"a final chance to glamorize the old days, stumble through a song or two and lie about ourselves a little." Among the attendees are two former chorus girls, the nutty Sally (Peters) and the brittle Phyllis (Maxwell), now married to the overeager Buddy (Burstein) and the powerful Ben (Raines). As their bitterness builds to a fantastical folie quatre, we see poignant flashbacks to their younger selves. And this Orphean circuit of art and retrospection is set against songs by other aging partygoers (also shadowed by ghosts of yesteryear): snapshots that celebrate the resilience of classic American showbiz as well as register its decay.

The challenge of reviewing Follies today is that this definitive critique of nostalgia has become the object of nostalgia itself, haunted by legends of previous productions. Those of us for whom this musical matters—for whom it stirs the soul and triggers the tear ducts like almost no other—will have quibbles among the many things to love about Eric Schaeffer's deluxe production (whose largely excellent cast of 41 notably includes Elaine Paige, Jayne Houdyshell and Terri White). But this is a show no grown-up should miss; after 40 years, it remains a piercing stare of hope and regret, longing and compromise. The kind of musical theater it dissects and eulogizes may be vanishing from Broadway, but Follies is still here, and it's gorgeous.

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Marquis Theatre. Book by James Goldman. Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Dir. Eric Schaeffer. With Bernadette Peters, Jan Maxwell, Danny Burstein, Ron Raines. 2hrs 30mins. One intermission. See complete event information

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