Saturday, October 2, 2010

Caldwell Theatre: Follies in Concert (4 reviews)

FolliesCaldwell Theatre doesn't often produce musicals, but has staged "concert" versions of rarely produced musicals by Stephen Sondheim to rave reviews.  This weekend, their third offering is a concert version of Follies.
It's the early 1970s and the Wesimann Theatre in New York is about to be demolished. Before the wrecking ball transforms the theatre into a parking lot, a reunion is taking pace for members or the Weismann Follies. As the evening goes on, the former performers relive many of their past experiences, both good and bad. Sally, a former Follie, meets the man that she's always loved, Ben, and the two middle-aged people end up kissing. By the end of the night though, they each go back to their perspective spouses and the various Follies continue on with their lives.
Clive Cholerton directed a cast that included Laura Hodos, Wayne LeGette, Melissa Minyard, Stephen G. Anthony, Meghan Colleen Moroney, Jeanne Bennett, Lourelene Snedeker, Nicole Niefeld, John Debkowski, Kevin Healey, Colleen Amaya, Melanie Leibner, and Joey Zangardi.

Roger Martin reviewed for
...this Follies is pretty much a delight through and through.
Director Clive Cholerton has assembled a strong cast: Wayne Legette and Melissa Minyard as husband and wife Buddy and Sally, and and Stephen G. Anthony and Laura Hodos as married couple Ben and Phyllis. Former dancers Heidi and Carlotta are played by Lourelene Snedeker and Meghan Colleen Moroney.
All six have fine solo numbers but it is Wayne LeGette who shines brightest. His mastery of the material in what is essentially a reading is testament to his talent and dedication.
Christine Dolen blogged about it in The Miami Herald:
While I feel uneasy about reviewing a staged reading or a concert version of anything -- the rehearsal time is too short, the actors aren't off book, etc. -- I do want to share a few quick impressions of the first performance of Follies...
Director Clive Cholerton, with a mighty assist from musical director Eric Alsford and lighting designer Dustin Hamilton (whose effects and projections add a vintage look to an otherwise barren stage), draws strong vocal work from a first-rate cast. Especially memorable are Stephen G. Anthony as the emotionally deadened Ben, Laura Hodos as a brittle Phyllis, Melissa Minyard as the never-got-over-Ben Sally and a way intense Wayne LeGette as Buddy.
Certain numbers (I'm Still Here) lack the bite that more rehearsal could have infused into them, but for the most part, another glorious Sondheim score is strongly served; just try not to get teary when Minyard sings Losing My Mind.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for the South Florida Theatre Review:
The unavoidable limitations of the Caldwell Theatre’s stirring concert edition of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies will only make you ache for a full production.
...director Clive Cholerton has gathered a strong cast who nimbly negotiate Sondheim’s infamous tongue-twisting lyrics with crystal enunciation and croon these songs as if they were lovers.
Cholerton and musical director Eric Alsford do not simply let the cast stand and deliver a Sondheim song revue interrupted by some of Goldman’s lines. They elicited credible acting during and between musical numbers.
Standouts in the cast included LeGette who almost splits in two during his schizophrenic vaudeville turn Buddy’s Blues, Hodos who inhabits her arch weary character with flair, and above all, Melissa Minyard whose melodious voice consistently mines lyrics for their deeper meanings, notably in breath-stopping In Buddy’s Eyes.
It’s a painfully brief run; you’d be wise to catch it while you can.
Hap Erstein reviewed for the Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
Sondheim-philes would probably go anywhere to hear these tunes sung as well as they are at the Caldwell this weekend,‭ ‬and on that level,‭ ‬you have to deem artistic director Clive Cholerton‭’‬s production a success.‭ ‬But the pared-down staging and lack of scenic touches leads to narrative confusion.‭ ‬It is hard to imagine that someone who had not seen Follies previously would be able to follow the show‭’‬s shifts between the present and the past,‭ ‬between reality and fantasy.‭
LeGette and Minyard have been paired and prominent in all three Caldwell concerts and they are again the standouts in the cast.‭ ‬You would not have to have seen the now legendary‭ ‬1985‭ ‬Follies concert at Lincoln Center to hear echoes of Mandy Patinkin‭’‬s Buddy in LeGette‭’‬s vocal approach to the character,‭ ‬but that intensity is very welcome,‭ ‬particularly on the burlesque-like‭ ‬Buddy‭’‬s Blues.‭ ‬Minyard is handed some of the score‭’‬s most haunting songs‭... ‬and she delivers them flawlessly.
Hodos is not as icy cool as ennui-fueled Phyllis is usually portrayed,‭ ‬but she is on-target with her laser-sharp solo,‭ ‬Could I Leave You‭?‬ And Anthony takes a while to get going as standoffish Ben,‭ ‬but eventually comes on strong on‭ ‬Live,‭ ‬Laugh,‭ ‬Love,‭ ‬an‭ ‬11‭ ‬o‭’‬clock mental breakdown number,‭ ‬something of a Sondheim specialty.
Cholerton has found some terrific new talent‭ ‬--‭ ‬Joey Zangardi,‭ ‬John Debkowski,‭ ‬Melanie Leibner and Nicole Niefeld‭ ‬--‭ ‬for the foursome‭’‬s younger selves.‭ ‬As part of his informal musical rep company,‭ ‬they definitely widen his future possibilities.
Overall,‭ ‬this‭ ‬Follies‭ ‬concert is another gift from the Caldwell to us Sondheim fanatics...
Caldwell Theatre's concert version of Follies closes this Sunday, October 3.  Don't miss it!

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