You wouldn’t think that four embittered middle-aged characters are pleasant company in one of Stephen Sondheim’s most clearly cynical yet nostalgic musicals to date.
And yet the 1971 musical Follies, opening July 5 at Walterdale Theatre, is one of his biggest charmers.
Follies takes place at a party, a special reunion of the Weismann girls (based on the Ziegfeld girls). Their old derelict theatre has a date with the wrecking ball and the former showgirls gather for one last fling.
Sweet, delusional Sally is unenthusiastically married to Buddy, a salesman who adores her, yet has a mistress. Her old friend, Phyllis is in an unhappy marriage to Ben, a cold, calculating politician for whom Sally still nurses a crush.
Adding yet another layer, Follies reveals the main characters’ four younger, and much happier idealist selves as ghosts from the past.
“I really like the characters. They’re not perfect. They’re flawed, but despite all their problems there is still hope they will recognize their follies,” said director Barbara Mah.
Veronica Masik, a former St. Albert Children’s Theatre actor, plays the younger Phyllis.
“She’s (Phyllis) very naÄ‚Ĺ»ve and not very confidant. She’s fallen in love for the first time and she thinks this boy is smarter, more affluent and better than she is. But he’s not the best person. He’s very obsessed with money and he’s become a very successful politician. Phyllis goes from being sweet and loving to someone who is bitter and jaded, cold and hard,” said Masik.
She has a passing resemblance to the more mature Phyllis, played by Monica Roberts and is in two ground-swelling numbers: Waiting for the Girls Upstairs and You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow.
As a last-minute replacement, another St. Albert triple threat, Christina O’Dell, was cajoled into singing an operatic duo with Erin Foster-Riordin.
“Originally Christina volunteered to help in the sound booth. But we needed a young ghost that could sing in a classical voice. So we pull her out of the sound booth, put her into a ball gown and pop her back after she finishes the song. You can only do this in community theatre,” laughs Mah.
For Follies Sondheim composed an unprecedented number of showstoppers such as Broadway Baby, Losing My Mind and You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow.
But Loveland is the company song everyone remembers, the one that morphs into a Vaudevillian snapshot.
“The tension of the Follies causes a breakdown in the continuum and reveals their follies,” chuckles Mah.
Adding to the claustrophobic ambiance, David Folk’s stark set design includes pulling the blacks aside allowing patrons to see the full backstage area of an empty theatre. And Christie Karlie has put her skills to work, painting water damage and mould on the crumbling walls.
“The talent, the chemistry. It really works for this show. Come and see it. It’s fun.”
July 5 to 8 and July 11 to July 15
10322 – 83 Ave.
Tickets: $18 to $20 Call 780-420-1757 or at tixonthesquare.ca