Friday, September 30, 2016

FOLLIES • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Rep’s 50th anniversary season kickoff was met with a palpable buzz -- and for good reason. While comfortably residing within the canon of Sondheim musicals, Follies is not often produced, but the Rep has pulled out all the stops on this one in an impressive reminder of why this musical is so cherished.

It’s 1971, and the home of the “Weismann's Follies” has long since seen its last lavish production number, and a reunion is taking place. Set designer, Luke Cantarella’s gorgeous backdrop of the dilapidated Weismann Theatre, is where the shadows of yesteryear mingle with the present talk of glamorous days gone by, and attempts to reverse the past bring regret. With a nimble cast of 28, including four sharp leads, a sweet 12-piece orchestra and Rob Ruggiero’s shrewd direction, the Rep’s production of this classic is a definitive one.

Phyllis (Emily Skinner) and Sally (Christiane Noll).
Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
After thirty years, the former Weismann Follies girls and their husbands are getting together for one last hurrah before the building is to be demolished to make room for a parking lot. Those in attendance catch up with each other and reminisce about their glory days, as spectral twins look on. These grand divas have one last glorious go at their old songs, often mirrored by their ghostly counterparts who share the space. Show-stopping numbers, including Zoe Vonder Haar’s Hattie in an irresistibly nostalgic “Broadway Baby,” Nancy Opel as Carlotta in a resilient “I’m Still Here,” and E. Faye Butler bringing down the house in Stella’s "Who's That Woman?” are highlights.

Buddy (Adam Heller).
Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
The relationships at the center of this gathering though, are a pair of mismatched couples. Phyllis (Emily Skinner), acerbic and perfectly coiffed, is married to Benjamin (Bradley Dean), a wealthy, suave politician. They make a strikingly elegant, “living the life of luxury“ couple -- informed by Amy Clark’s knockout costume design. Then there’s the other couple -- Buddy (Adam Heller), a moderately successful salesman, who’s married to Sally (Christiane Noll), both more modest in dress and character, but no less wary of what this reunion might dredge up.

Ben (Bradley Dean) and Phyllis (Emily Skinner).
Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Ben and Buddy were best pals back in the day, and Sally and Phyllis were roommates. This is when Sally loved Ben and Ben loved Sally, and the rifts that formed back during this foursome’s wooing days are remembered. Old bruises are reopened into fresh wounds, particularly on display in a bold second act of heartbreaks and psychological meltdowns. Heller’s frantic "The Right Girl,” Skinner’s caustic rendition of "Could I Leave You?" and Noll’s potent torch song, "Losing My Mind" are second act gems, and under conductor and pianist Valerie Maze, the orchestra is in fine form.

Sally (Christiane Noll).
Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
This is the last week to catch this Sondheim classic, so I suggest getting a ticket. Like, right now -- get a ticket.


FOLLIES

Book by James Goldman
Music/lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Rob Ruggiero
Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road
through October 2 | tickets: $18 - $81.50
Performances Tuesdays at 7pm, selected Wednesdays to Fridays at 8pm, selected Wednesdays at 1:30pm, Saturdays at 4pm, selected Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm, selected Sundays at 7pm

Hattie (Zoe Vonder Haar).
Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Cast
Sally Durant Plummer: Christiane Noll*
Phyllis Rogers Stone: Emily Skinner*
Buddy Plummer: Adam Heller*
Benjamin Stone: Bradley Dean*
Carlotta Campion: Nancy Opel*
Hattie Walker: Zoe Vonder Haar*
Solange LaFitte: Amra-Faye Wright*
Theodore Whitman: James Young*
Stella Deems: E. Faye Butler*
Heidi Schiller: Carol Skarimbas*
Roscoe: Robert DuSold*
Emily Whitman: Dorothy Stanley*
Dimitri Weismann: Joneal Joplin*
Max Deems: Ron Himes*
Young Phyllis: Kathryn Boswell*
Young Ben: Michael Williams*
Young Sally: Sarah Quinn Taylor*
Young Buddy: Cody Williams*
Young Heidi: Julie Hanson*
Ensemble: Kristen Smith Davis*, Gaby Gamache*, Luke Hamilton*, Julie Hanson, Dan Horn*, Adrienne Howard*, Drew Nellessen*, Brenna Noble, Kara Overlien and Brett Thiele*

The Follies ensemble in Loveland.
Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Creative
Choreographer: Ralph Perkins
Music Supervisor: Brad Haak
Scenic Designer: Luke Cantarella
Costume Designer: Amy Clark
Lighting Designer: John Lasiter
Sound Designer: Randy Hansen
Conductor: Valerie Maze
Orchestral Reduction: David Siegel
Casting Director: Pat McCorkle, McCorkle Casting, Ltd.
Stage Manager: Emilee Buchheit*
Assistant Stage Manager: Lorraine LiCavoli*

* Denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of
Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States

Musicians
Conductor/Piano: Valerie Maze
Reed I: Mike Buerk
Reed II: Mike Karpowicz
Trumpet I: Andy Tichenor
Trumpet II: Vicky Smolik
Trombone: Tom Vincent
Harp: Wesley Kelly
Drums: Steve Riley
Percussion: Chris Treloar
Violin: Tova Braitberg
Cello: Marian Drake
Bass: Jay Hungerford

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