Review: Follies at Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre Walthamstow November 2010

Tim McArthur (Director) and Aaron Clingham (Musical Director) created a masterpiece in their production of ‘Follies’ at Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre Walthamstow. The pub theatre was an ideal setting. As you enter this thriving venue you are immediately transported into a world of nostalgic warmth and climbing up the narrow twisting staircase to the intimate theatre you know you are going to experience entertainment that will stay with you for months to come.

Stephen Sondheim’s music and lyrics and script by James Goldman took us immediately into a world that was instantly recognizable. It was easy to identify with the twists and turns of the clearly defined characters and their current relationships marked and scarred with unresolved issues of the past.   

Glorious tableaux, amazingly slick stage movements and sparkling choreography captured the spirit of the Follies while moments of emotionally-charged reflection, multi-faceted ensembles of symbolic complexity and seductive and energetic dances permeated the music. 

As the characters revived memories from a glorious past, the combination of scenes from their youth were wonderfully and clearly juxtaposed with their current lives in this clever and effective production. Astute casting brought credible lookalikes into play: Mark Hutchinson (Buddy) and Leejay Townsend (young Buddy), Julie Ross (Phyllis) and Nia Evens (young Phyllis), Maggie Robson (Sally) and Emma Lumsden (young Sally), Frank Loman (Ben) and Reuben Kay (young Ben), Rachel Dobell (Heidi) and Jennie-Marie Cooper (young Heidi) were extremely well matched and not once were we lost in the interplay of their inner emotional development from the heady days of raw passion to the more mature, complex characters and their unsettled affairs of the present.  Sally, Buddy, Phyllis and Ben were an awesome foursome and the pain and passion of their interrelationships were almost tangible. Sally’s emotional frailty, Buddy’s thinly-veiled cheer, Ben’s enigmatic complexity and Phyllis’s seething wrath were particularly well conveyed.

The other main characters added depth to the proceedings and included the commanding Roscoe (Michale Dawe), delightfully expressive Hattie (Ellen Verenieks), heart–rendering Emily (Dympna Messenger) and Stella (Mahny Djahanguiri), the luscious and sonorous Carlotta (April Nicholson), the exquisitely French Salonge (Teresa Jennings) and the essential Weissman (Johnson Wilkinson), Kevin (Sam Sadler) and Theodore (Colin Appleby).

Special unforgettable musical moments were Carlotta’s mellow and rich ‘I’m still here’, Ben and Sally’s ‘Too Many Mornings’ and Sally’s poignant ‘Losing My Mind’.

It was no surprise to learn that this All Star Productions’ show was booked out for some of the nights so you are advised to book early for their next production which will be ‘Something’s Coming’ at Theatro Technis, Camden http://www.allstarproductions.co.uk.

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