Review by G. L. Horton
Copyright © 2003 Geralyn Horton.

Follies in Concert
Musical performance in two acts.
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
Book by James Goldman.
Directed by Spiro Veloudos.
Musical director, Michael Joseph.
Choreography, Ilyse Robbins.
Lights, Ellen Moore.
Sound, E.L. Copeland.
Produced by Overture Productions

The "Follies in Concert" that Deb Poppel's Overture Productions has mounted at John Hancock Hall is glorious, not to be missed. There were some empty seats at last Friday's opening--- don't let this happen again! It isn't just that Boston's splendid home team singers put their individual stamp on the brilliant and moving star-turn songs that stud this show: Kathy St. George's "Ah, Paris"; Mary Callanan's "Broadway Baby"; Bobbie Steinbach's "I'm Still Here"; Maryann Zschau's "Could I Leave You?" and "The Ballad of Lucy and Jessie" ; Frank Gayton's "Buddy's Blues": and Leigh Barrett's "Don't Look at Me" "In Buddy's Eyes," "Losing My Mind," and "Too Many Mornings." It isn't just the difference a full orchestra free of the pit and in intimate collaboration with the performers makes. It's that director Spiro Veloudos and conductor Michael Joseph and the Overtures company has captured the tragic transcendence latent in musical theatre, which "Follies" mines by claim-jumping the field from Minsky's to Mozart.

It is true that "In Concert" presents "Follies" interlocking set of metaphors with only a nod towards those-- like "Beautiful Girls" "Mirror, Mirror" or "Loveland"-- that are dependent on Spectacle, but you can close your eyes as the gorgeous sound embraces you and picture a production to match. You may never have another chance to hear Sondheim's "Follies" ensembles and choruses with this degree of clarity and balance and expressivity. Beginning and coming full circle with "Waiting for the Girls Upstairs", the ensembles are woven from longing and loss: banal patterns, easy ironies, clever quips and second hand fantasies individualized and harmonized so beautifully that they break your heart, time after time. Love vs lust, ripening vs decay, art vs manipulation-- the lines are so fine that they may be visible only to the eyes of innocent folly or of enlightenment. Most of us stumble around in ignorance, chasing rainbows, falling through the cracks, most of the time-- though our desperation is quieter than the cruel eloquence James Goldman's book and Stephen Sondheim's lyrics give their characters. The eloquence of the first act "The Road You Didn't Take" is parodied and purged through the razz-matazz of Show Biz psychoanalysis finale in "You're Gonna Love Tomorrow" "Love Will See Us Through" and "Live, Laugh, Love", and then we're back to "The Girls Upstairs"-- but it's not the same. We've been on a purgatorial journey, to arrive at wisdom, and wisdom's broken but open heart.

At John Hancock Hall, Friday Nov. 22 and Saturday Nov. 23, 8:00pm tickets 617-931-2787.


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