Photo by Don Kellogg

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Although a fully staged production, it appeared to me to be nothing more than an enhanced concert version of Stephen Sondheim's luxurious score at the Eisenhower Theater at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC.  The construction of the show is quite cumbersome to begin with - old people enter, begin to reminisce, younger versions of their characters appear in the dialogue, one by one they all have "moments" in the spotlight.  The story struggles to keep moving forward because we are constantly having to look back at how it all started to understand why we are where we are.  Then come 4 fantasy follies numbers that chop up the 2nd act and finally back to a quick wrap-up in reality.

All the stars on stage seemed as if they rehearsed alone in a room and for the first time stepped foot on stage together.  No chemistry.   No palpable feeling they were coming back to revisit memories.  Just actors singing songs and saying lines.  Perhaps you were one of the early and loud-clappers that sat next to me?  By this I mean the throngs of freaks who were there to burst out into applause 8 seconds before everyone else and before the songs were over just because Bernadette Peters was somewhere near the stage and may have hit a note that sounded marginally good.   With that said, most of the performances were pretty good.  But we still have the first problem - no chemistry.  Without that, the show is just a pastiche of concertized Broadway numbers under a rose colored spotlight.

Bernadette Peters (Sally) and Jan Maxwell (Phyllis) were OK.  Not great, but OK.  Linda Lavin, however, knocked Hattie out of the park - Broadway Baby was her number to deliver and was honestly the best number of the entire show.  Elaine Paige, on the other hand, was terrible.  I'm Still Here should be a rousing, crowd stirring number by the time it's finished.  She's got the right first name for the song - but a Stritch, she is not.  Ron Raines (Benjamin) and Danny Burstein (Buddy) seemed oddly miscast although Ron's vocals were in fine form.  Mr. Burstein only seemed to hit it out the park when he was in his sweet spot - character acting - performing his follies number - Buddy's Blues.

Overall, the show was disappointing, although to see any of these actors perform is a treat.  This production just didn't seem to pull it all together.  Regret.  It was both the theme of the show and my evening as well.