Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fall Season Enters Full Swing with Opening of "Follies"

The fall season on Broadway has definitely started with a bang, and a particularly needed one, too, after a slow summer (only two shows opened this summer, the long-awaited Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and the starry revival of Terrence McNally's Master Class). Follies, the Stephen Sondheim musical about the ghosts of our pasts, officially opened last night at the Marquis Theatre to mixed-to-strong reviews. The production overall was praised almost across the board, as were many of the show's actors. Two of the four leads, Ron Raines and Jan Maxwell, have given what are being called the performances of their careers. Danny Burstein stands out as the best Buddy Plummer in memory, in a performance that is certain to bring the actor his third Tony nomination (and, likely, his first win). Bernadette Peters, usually the toast of Broadway, received the most mixed reviews of the cast, with Variety's Steven Suskin sayimg "we can't tell whether Sally is struggling with her emotions or Peters is just struggling with the notes."

Every review I read gave honorable mention to Terri White, Jayne Houdyshell, Mary Beth Peil and especially to Elaine Paige, whose performance of the much overdone song "I'm Still Here" was universally cited as revelatory.

Of the tehcnical elements, the sound and lighting designs were mentioned quite favorably. Scenic design was said to be functional, but not extraordinary, in both Variety and the NYTimes. "Mr. Carlyle’s period choreography, though often charming, lacks the grandeur and precision of Bennett’s," says the New York Times' Ben Brantley.

Come Tony season, I expect nominations for Mr. Raines, Mr. Burstein, and Ms. Maxwell for their performances, as well as for orchestrations, lighting design, sound design, direction, and revival. Strong possibilities for nominations are Ms. Paige, costume design, scenic design, and choreography.

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