Follies in Concert: 1985 Cast Recording

Music and Lyrics By: Stephen Sondheim

Distributed by: Masterworks Broadway

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            When the Stephen Sondheim musical known as Follies first appeared at the Winter Garden in 1971, no one could have predicted that it would have closed only a year later having lost its entire investment.  And yet, theater lovers actually enjoyed the musical and folks rued the fact that the 1971 show was never recorded for posterity.  In 1985, a special two-night event at Avery Fisher Hall in New York featured a star-studded (Lee Remick, Mandy Patinkin, Carol Burnett and Liz Calloway among others) cast production of Follies.  In October 2011, Masterworks Broadway re-released the 1985 Cast Recording of Follies in Concert.

            In Follies, a reunion of former Weismann Follies members is being held in the Follies home theater, a derelict Broadway venue scheduled for demolition.  The musical centers around two couples at the party, Sally Durant (Barbara Cook) and her husband Buddy Plummer (Mandy Patinkin) and Phyllis Rogers (Lee Remick) and her husband Ben Stone  (George Hearn).  Once star-crossed lovers, the couples are experiencing marital difficulties.  Buddy is a traveling salesman with a mistress in another town and prosperous businessman Ben is so haunted by his own demons that Phyllis feels neglected.  And the midst of it all, Sally has been harboring a secret love for Buddy.

            The musical begins with the former singers and dancers reprising old numbers alongside the shadows of their former selves.  The second half of the musical features vaudevillian-like numbers that explore the main characters’ personal turmoils.  I enjoyed all of the songs, but my favorites are the rather boozy Broadway Baby and the anthem I’m Still Here.

            This edition of Follies in Concert is a two-disc set.  The second CD features 23 tracks of Stephen Sondheim film score from Stavisky, a 1974 movie set in the 1930s about a con artist and swindler whose criminal activities almost destroys the government of the French Third Republic.  I’m really not quite sure why this movie score would be included on this Follies in Concert album.  The music is well-composed and is based on a similar time period, but to me, the Stavisky score deserves its own album and shouldn’t be included on this one.

            I enjoyed the 1985 Cast Recording of Follies in Concert and can understand why a Follies revival was inevitable.  As this revival comes to an end, it seemed only fitting to check this re-released album out.  Having never had the pleasure of enjoying this musical previously, I am actually sorry not to have witnessed the recent revival before it closed.


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