“★★★★★. Follies is a theatrical spectacle, immense in its scope and intimidating for any troupe attempting its execution. Goals are made to be pursued, though, and (Steven) Woolf and The Rep have realized theirs with a sumptuous, stunning and spectacular presentation of Stephen Sondheim’s multiple, Tony Award-winning masterpiece, a paean to the world of stage performance and illusion.”
“Director Rob Ruggiero delivers a lucid, tender production of this extremely complicated story about a reunion of showgirls. ... You feel a little sympathy for them, and, by the end maybe a little optimism as well. For a show so focused on artificiality — on the timeworn conceits of the stage — that’s a stunning revelation.”
“I can’t say enough how every aspect of this production has come together for one of the most impressive and stunning performances we’ve seen in St. Louis. The audience on opening night shouted and applauded throughout the evening and then leapt to their feet before the curtain call could even commence. This was a remarkable evening of theatre.”
“This production of Follies is not only recommended, it is compulsory for any patron of the theatre. Shows of this magnitude do not happen by accident and you would be remiss in not grabbing your tickets now. I may be fighting you in line for a repeat ticket; I must see this production again before the final curtain falls.”
“Let’s cut to the chase here. The Rep has hit another one out of the park with Follies. ... It’s a splendid evening. The show feels beautifully, glowingly new. This is the kickoff to a new season of theater in town and it sets a very high mark.”
Leading up to our season premiere of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies on September 9, we’re talking to members of our all-star cast about the show’s legendary songs and what they mean to them and their characters. Yesterday, we checked in with Christiane Noll about her character Sally and the song “Losing My Mind.”
Up next, we talked to Bradley Dean, the man who plays Sally’s long-ago love interest Ben. Like the other main characters in the show, Ben has a signature number in act two that digs into the flaws and insecurities of his character. The deceptive “Live, Laugh, Love” begins by shrouding Ben’s demons with vaudevillian glitz. But as it continues, more and more cracks in the facade begin to show.
Here are Dean’s thoughts on this complex number:
How would you describe the song — its style, the emotion behind it?
“Live, Laugh, Love” is a pastiche song in the spirit of Cole Porter or maybe the golden age of Hollywood. A top hat and cane, laissez faire, song and dance that becomes much more than that as it disintegrates.
What does this song represent for your character?
Ben wears this song like a mask. Trying to mean it, desperate to gather up the pieces of a rapidly crumbling life and paste them together in a Ben-like shape so that he might walk out of this party and back to his functional if unsatisfying life in one functional if unsatisfied piece. Ultimately, the glaring truth of the folly of his life is too blazingly bright to ignore and the simmering pot boils over and all is flooded.
What are some of the challenges of performing it?
Well, thus far we haven’t put the song on its feet so I’m not sure but (spoiler alert) Sondheim talks about the Pirandello quality of this moment, the blurring of the line between actor and character. That is, is Ben forgetting where he is in the song as it devolves or is Bradley the actor not remembering a line? I find that idea incredibly enticing, and I am looking forward to the challenge, but I also sense it will be a very delicate truth to capture.
The score of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies plays like a greatest hits collection, treating listeners to a pristine revue of memorable and emotionally stirring songs. Sondheim nimbly skips between every genre and influence within the Great American Songbook, creating his own canon of showbiz standards in the process.
It’s part of what makes Follies such a brilliant but challenging show for performers — nailing one of these songs is like catching lightning in a bottle.
Leading up to the show’s Rep premiere on September 9, we’re talking to members of our all-star cast about the show’s songs and what they mean to them and their characters.
Up first, we asked the Tony-nominated Christiane Noll about her character Sally’s immense torch song, “Losing My Mind.”
The song takes place during a famous second-act sequence called “Loveland,” where the reality of the play breaks down and its four main characters come face-to-face with themselves and their fears through song.
Here’s what Noll wrote about “Losing My Mind”:
“I feel like Sally has been bouncing all over the place all evening, living the reality she is choosing at the present moment, regardless of the consequences or validity of it.
All four of the main characters, Sally, Buddy, Phyllis and Ben are coming to grips with the choices that they made in their life. When Loveland occurs, each one of them has a bit of a fantastical realization of their true selves, each one as painful as the other.
‘Losing My Mind’ is Sally’s moment to finally be still, finally be honest, and finally relocate that core self which she had lost. I think it leaves her raw but open for the first time in 30 years.
And gosh it’s fun to sing! It’s a torch song that builds until she realizes she has nothing more to give.
I am grateful to be singing it in my key. Most have sung it lower. Barbara Cook sang it in a higher key. I’m in the middle of those. I think that’s the was the biggest challenge, finding a key that allows the low notes to be full and meaty but is high enough that the high notes are thrilling but not hooty! I love it! It feels good to go on this very still journey.”
The Backstage Blog is your chance to...well, go "backstage" at The Rep. We'll be posting all sorts of insider information, about upcoming productions, about the process of bringing a play from the page to the stage, about design challenges and cast conundrums—everything that goes into making a show special. Check back often for the latest updates!