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Opening Night of FOLLIES on Broadway – A Profusion of Theatricality
Last night I was lucky enough to attend the opening night of FOLLIES on Broadway. For those unfamiliar, FOLLIES is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Goldman. It originally opened on Broadway in 1971, directed by Hal Prince and Michael Bennett. As you can see, this was the work of musical theatre GIANTS. However it’s a show you don’t see around too often, mainly because of the complexity involved in bringing it to life on stage. The production I saw last night had a 41-member cast and a 28-piece orchestra. This is a great, big, fat Broadway musical. And it’s thrilling. What I loved most about the show I saw last night was the absolute theatricality of the storytelling. The story unfolded not as if I was watching a film, or reading a novel, but ONLY in a way that could be achieved through theatre. There’s never a moment when they aren’t using every theatrical tool at their disposal to drive the story and deepen the characters – song, dance, costumes, staging, symbolism, ghosts, flashbacks, lighting, orchestrations, etc. These characters were all once Vaudeville performers? You bet your behind that at the emotional climax of Act II we’ll transform into an alternative world in which every single one of them will express themselves through Vaudeville! Why not? This is theatre, As a writer, as silly as it sounds, you sometimes lose track of that fact that what you write will actually be acted on stage. The art of theatre is not just aural, but of course visual as well. The actors will always be doing something, the audience will always be watching something. I’ve been stuck on a particular scene of one of my projects for awhile now. But after FOLLIES, I’ve realized I need to remember to think bigger than just the words or notes on a page. To get a sense of the current production of FOLLIES, check out the clip below: