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The Arlington Players Follies

By • Apr 22nd, 2009 • Category: Reviews
Follies
The Arlington Players
Thomas Jefferson Community Theater, Arlington, VA
$20/$15 Seniors and Juniors
Playing through May 2nd
Reviewed April 17th, 2009

The Arlington Players presents Follies, Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s beautiful, broken-hearted musical from 1971 about a showbiz reunion that ends not just in tears but also in nervous breakdowns. Multiple revivals, seven Tony awards (11 nominations) and some of the stage’s best standards, including “Broadway Baby,” “I’m Still Here,” “Too Many Mornings,” “Could I Leave You?” and “Losing My Mind” make Follies a formidable undertaking for any theater company.

Follies is set in a crumbling Broadway theatre, scheduled for demolition, during a reunion for all the past members of the Weismann’s Follies, a musical revue (based on the Ziegfeld Follies) which played in that theatre between the World Wars. Set Designer Jared Davis made good use of the space with his striking and dramatic set, which moved well in creating the landmark theater.

The large cast supports two couples who are attending the reunion. That’s the worldly, rich Manhattan businessman Ben Stone (Jimmy Payne) and his wry, elegant wife, Phyllis (Lynn Audrey Neal); and the bouncy, eager Midwestern salesman Buddy Plummer (Jack B. Stein) and his wife, Sally (Ms. Clark), a cockeyed optimist gone toxic. Sally and Phyllis were both showgirls in the Follies as were many of the other guests. Both marriages are having problems because Buddy, a traveling salesman, is having an affair with a girl on the road, Sally is still in love with Ben as she was years ago, and Ben is so self-absorbed that Phyllis feels emotionally abandoned.

TAP works admirably to produce this huge piece of work under the direction of Christopher Dykton but as the director addresses in his program notes, “Folly is everywhere” and there are some minor detractions.

Neither the costumes not the physical casting represented consistently the ages of the performers or the 1971 era. Costumes were lovely but did little to reflect the generation they represented.This talented cast had an enormous range of talent and believability but was still hard pressed to adequately cover the depth and ability needed for many of the roles, as is often the case in community theater.

Outstanding performances included Lynn Audrey Neal and Jimmy Payne as Phyllis and Ben Stone. Wonderful cameos were also presented by Judy Lewis as Solange La Fitte and Barbara Porter as Carlotta Campion and the professionalism and musicality of the pit under conductor Leah Kocsis was excellent. The Thomas Jefferson Community Theater is a lovely facility and the technical aspects of the show were top notch.

Follies is a large undertaking in any theater company. Brace yourselves for what it offers every audience. The story will twist away at your heart. The pain that surprises and seizes those who would recall even happy times — or times they thought were happy — nags at your insides long after the curtain closes.

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works nationally and internationally as an opera singer, coach, teacher, conductor and stage director. She is the CEO of Saltnote Stageworks, a non-profit corporation that promotes education & performance opportunities for emerging artists.

One Response »

  1. Hats off to the entire crew, orchestra and the cast and designers of Follies. It was one of the finest evenings in the theatre for me this year. Congrats to the costume designers who captured the eras of the young and the older characters beautifully. The costumes, the lighting, the staging, the cast, the set design, and choreography were all first-rate. I wish TAP could have extended it, because I would havce seen it again and again. Bravo to director Chris Dykstra for his brilliant direction. And, again, a special nod to the incredible orchestra. Sondheim’s score never sounded better, This was an exceptional production, rarely performed as well in “professional” theatres. A brilliant accomplishment. You should be very proud TAP!