When two Follies stars and their husbands reconnect at a Weismann Theatre reunion, the theatre seems haunted with memories and ghosts of past infidelities. The inventive libretto by James Goldman includes young versions of the characters in scenes as a flashback or shared memory. Director Roger Hodgman weaves these ‘past and present’ characters into the same space, creating a wonderful intimacy which leads to confronting results. In Loveland, Sondheim brilliantly writes lyrics that contradict the dreamy and overwhelming optimistic themes of the music. And this score contains some of his greatest showstoppers.
As Buddy Plummer, Philip Gould is sharp and stylish as the song and dance man. Outstanding as both a balladeer and vaudevillian clown, Gould proves yet again that he is one of the most versatile actors in the country. Debra Byrne makes the most of her giddy and troubled Sally Durant Plummer, rejected by her true love. Her journey from the idealistic In Buddy’s Eyes contrasts beautifully with the tragic anguish of Losing My Mind. John Diedrich convinces as the charming, yet disillusioned Benjamin Stone. His unravelling in Live, Laugh, Love is effectively disconcerting. Playing Ben’s embittered wife Phyllis, Anne Wood chews up the scenery without batting an eyelid and relishes every opportunity to taunt anyone within reach. Her predatory circling and goading Ben in the caustic Could I Leave You is defiantly vehement. As reminiscing guests at the reunion the other Follies stars each get their chance in the spotlight. Melissa Langton joyfully leads an entertaining and playful Who’s That Woman with appealing zest. Judi Connelli shines in a gutsy and determined performance of I’m Still Here. And Nancye Hayes steals the show singing Broadway Baby. Every nuance and cheeky gesture Hayes makes is deliciously brazen and mischievous. Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell is delightful as the proud, yet unsentimental theatre owner Dimitri Weissman ready to move on to his next challenge.