intermissionmag.com

Follies

The Saint Louis Repertory Theater Company
at The Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts
Webster Groves, MO

Reviewed by Verna Kerans
Ran September 7 through October 2, 2016

I was around when the Webster University Loretto-Hilton opened its doors. Named for its benefactor Conrad Hilton and the Loretto nuns who had a prime role in educating him, Hilton had somehow made friends with a young actress, Marsha Mason, who was attending Webster College. She told him how they needed a theater and, as I heard it, he gave a substantial amount to build what is now the theater at Webster. She is still around. Marsha Mason graduated from Webster, went to New York to be in a Neil Simon show and married him!!

A dear friend of mine, Michael Flanagan was the first artistic director of The St. Louis Repertory, or The Rep, in 1966. The back story of its conception and its history are very interesting. He would have enjoyed all the hoopla and the 50-year celebration that Follies commemorates. Unfortunately, Michael died in 1993.

In celebration of 50 years of producing shows, The Rep opened its season with a spectacle worthy of many great years of fabulous theatre. Follies reminds us of Florenz Ziegfeld and the beautiful girls that graced his theatre and for many years was THE show to see in New York. If you are very young, you may not have even heard of The Zeigfeld Follies which was a musical review that ran for 25 years after its inception in 1907. I advise you to read up on it as this show at the Rep has some of the beauty that made Ziegfeld famous. In the lobby of the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts are photos of some of the girls that made him famous, including Fanny Brice and Barbara Stanwyck.

In 1971, Follies graced the Broadway stage for the first time but it’s never been done by The Rep until now. Written by Steven Sondheim and James Goldman, this musical is rarely done. We can see why. It's a fabulous show, but a challenge to produce! You need quite a lot of experienced actors with wonderful voices and women who still look great in formals and fancy attire.

The story of Follies is a look back on a show that tells how Sally (Christiane Noll), Buddy (Adam Heller), Phyllis (Emily Skinner), Ben (Bradley Dean) and their younger selves reminisce about the years that have passed. They also express their feelings for the partners they didn't marry, and the ones they did. Several familiar faces are in this show including Joneal Joplin and Ron Himes.

Some of my favorite songs from this show are Broadway Baby, I'm Still Here, Could I Leave You? and Losing My Mind. The show was directed by Rob Ruggiero, choreographed by Ralph Perkins, amazing scene design by Luke Cantarella, costumes by Amy Clark.

I felt sorry for audience members who had not read the letter from artistic director Steven Woolf which included a full explanation of the play’s concept. It would have given a full update for the uninitiated. A number of audience members had not read the letter and therefore had no idea what the story was.

This lovely show plays through October 2.

Call 314-968-4925 for tickets.

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