Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Resurrecting the Echoes

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Resurrecting the Echoes

Article excerpt

Follies' revival cast recording captures more material than any previous version

We are now 40 years removed from the 1971 Broadway opening of Follies, as distant as that show was from the actual Ziegfeld productions that inspired it. The 2011 Broadway revival is not only summoning the spirits of the Broadway era of George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, but the memories of director Harold Prince and choreographer Michael Bennett's staging of the original Follies. PS Classics has done an excellent job resurrecting those echoes in its cast recording of the Broadway revival, released in late November 2011.

Clocking in at one hour and 46 minutes on two CDs, this recording (produced by Tommy Krasker and Philip Chaffin) includes more of James Goldman's libretto than any previous Follies album. It relegates most of the speeches to separate tracks while wisely keeping the underscoring of the onstage pit band throughout much of the show. Most significantly, almost all of the dialogue of the "ghosts" of the four main characters (Lorra Lee Gayer as Sally, Christian Delcroix as Buddy, Kirsten Scott as Phyllis and Nick Verina as Ben) has been retained, and they have a much stronger presence here than on earlier Follies recordings. While recent Broadway audiences have grown accustomed to pareddown pit accompaniment, Follies is one show that requires a larger-than-life sound, and Jonathan Tunick's orchestrations for the 28-piece orchestra have never sounded clearer or, in the cases of "Losing My Mind" and "One More Kiss," more poignant.

The 2011 album generally displays the musical's four central protagonists to their best advantage. Bernadette Peters, who since the mid-1980s has become the premier Sondheim interpreter, brings a genuine vulnerability to the role of Sally. During the "Prelude" she introduces herself as "Sally Durant ... Plummer," and that pause before her married name speaks volumes about her disillusionment over what her life has become. If Barbara Cook's renditions of "In Buddy's Eyes" and "Losing My Mind" on the 1985 Avery Fisher Hall recording remain two of the best performances of Sondheim material, Peters does a better job in these songs of capturing Sally's self-delusions.

Jan Maxwell handles her numbers skillfully while embodying the reserve of Phyllis, although she goes emotionally overboard at the climax of "Could I Leave You? …

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