a musical in one act. Book by James Goldman. Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
Produced at the Winter Garden, New York, 4 April 1971 with Alexis Smith (Phyllis), John McMartin (Ben), Dorothy Collins (Sally) and Gene Nelson (Buddy). Produced at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London, in a revised version, 21 July 1987 with Diana Rigg, Daniel Massey, Julia McKenzie and David Healy.
It is 1970 and on the stage of the Weismann Theatre, New York, the eponymous Dimitri Weismann has gathered together the surviving players of his lavish pre-war Follies, from the silver screen goddess Carlotta Campion to the most nondescript chorine, for a first and last reunion: an invitation "to glamorize the old days, stumble through a song or two and lie about ourselves" -before the theatre is demolished to make way for a parking lot. As Roscoe serenades those Beautiful Girls, the now-elderly ing6nues and matronly starlets, veterans of a more innocent age of entertainment, descend the famous Follies staircase one last time. For Sally and Phyllis, both now married to their respective stage-door Johnnies, Buddy and Ben, the theatre seems haunted by their younger selves, the giddy hopefuls of 1940. Don't Look At Me, Sally babbles to Ben as they meet for the first time in years. But they're both glad they came.
Once the party gets under way it isn't long before the regulars are gleefully dusting off their old acts: Theodore and Emily Whitman recall their sweetly naive duct, Rain on the Roof: Solange purrs her way through the fake Gallic sophistication of Ah, Paree!; and Hattie proclaims again that she's, indestructibly, a Broadway Baby. For Ben and Buddy, too, the memories of three decades come flooding back - all those hours after the show Waiting for the Girls Upstairs in their dressing rooms - but for Ben these memories awake old regrets as he looks back at a lifetime of lost opportunities (The Road You Didn't Take). Sally tells Ben about her life with Buddy in Arizona - cooking, flower-arranging, trips to the mall, but In Buddy's Eyes, she knows, she's still his princess. Yesterday, though, tells another story: young Sally and young Ben pledging their love. And, in the haze of nostalgia, the past seems to be seeping into the present. As Stella leads the 1940 Follies girls through "the mirror number" (Who's That Woman), shadowy wraiths of their younger selves mimic their movements. For Sally and Buddy, Phyllis and Ben, the resurrection of their distant pasts only serves to point out the inadequacies of their marriages. Only Carlotta seems relaxed and philosophical about the old days: good times, bum times, she's grateful just to have got through it, and confidently declares I'm Still Here. Seeing Sally again, Ben realises he's spent Too Many Mornings dreaming of her. If you don't kiss me, " Sally tells him, I think I'm going to die."
Young Phyllis, Ben, Sally and Buddy taunt their disillusioned older selves with the failed promises of youth. Ben tells Sally that he no longer loves her, that for him "all of it was over years ago". For Buddy, life is all about findingThe Right Girl and he has, sort of. a 23-year old called Margie. But you can't turn the clock back: as Heidi Schiller reminds us in an eerie operetta waltz, all dreams are a sweet mistake and eventually we have to face reality: all we can hope for is One More Kiss - and a brief glimpse of those dreams.
Phyllis, having successfully seduced Kevin, one of the waiters, is by now wondering Could I Leave You and live without Ben, without his sneered jokes, his loveless love-making, his dreary big-shots from the UN. Ben, goaded, starts to argue with Phyllis, and soon Sally and Buddy, together with their younger selves, join in. They all shout hysterically at each other, screaming out all the bitterness that has, until now, been more or less repressed. At the height of the confrontation the orchestra suddenly swells and Loveland calls, luring them back to a playground of overwhelming optimism, where skies are ever blue. On the drab stage of the derelict theatre Loveland rises - the apotheosis of a Weismann Follies set, a fabulous wedding cake reaching for the stars, an enchanted citadel where the two couples can re-visit their individual follies. The young sweethearts Ben and Phyllis promise each other that You're Gonna Love Tomorrow, and for young Sally and Buddy, nothing is so certain but that Love Will See Us Through. Afterwards, though, Buddy's The-God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me-Blues begin to get him down, as he scuttles frantically between mistress and wife, while poor miserable Sally moans in a smouldering torch number that she's Losing My Mind. Phyllis raunchily sings The Story of Lucy and Jessie (Lucy being Phyllis and Jessie being Sally), telling us that if only juicy but drab Lucy and dressy but cold Jessie could only combine then I could tell you someone who would finally feel just fine." Lastly Ben takes the stage with Live, Love, Laugh, singing of how clever and adept he is at everything - but his song gradually starts to go wrong. He forget his lines, the tune, the dance steps and finally, in his mind, all the past evening's traumatic experiences are regurgitated in one terrifying mass. Panic-stricken, he rushes off, screaming out his wife's name and we return sharply to reality.
Having exorcised the ghosts of their pasts the two couples depart Dimitri Weismann's reunion; they'll have to find out whether anything's really changed in their lives. They've come a long way from those days waiting around for the girls upstairs, but they're still here.
- BENJAMIN STONE - A big man on Wall Street, with a chic Manhattan wife, no children but everything else.
- YOUNG BEN - Ben thirty years earlier, in 1940, when he was dating a Follies girl.
- PHYLLIS ROGERS STONE - Ben's 50-year old society wife, smart, tart, vicious and sleek.
- YOUNG PHYLLIS - A showgirl in the chorus of the final edition of the Weismann Follies.
- BUDDY PLUMMER - Ben's pal, now a prosperous realtor in Arizona, with wife, kids - and a mistress.
- YOUNG BUDDY - The eager young beau of a Follies chorine.
- SALLY DURANT PLUMMER - Buddy's well-to-do wife, still gushy and girlish despite the routine of married life.
- YOUNG SALLY - A Follies chorine, 20 years old in 1940, and caught between Buddy and his pal, Ben.
- CARLOTTA CAMPION - A resilient motion picture star, once a vamp, then reduced to mother r6Ies, but still hanging in there.
- STELLA DEEMS - Another veteran of the final Follies.
- YOUNG STELLA - The singer and dancer as she was in 1940.
- HEIDI SCHILLER - A 90-year old Broadway legend, whose ringing soprano inspired the operetta kings to produce their lushest waltzes.
- YOUNG HEIDI - The celebrated soprano in her heyday.
- HATTIE WALKER - After all these years, still a Broadway Baby.
- EMILY WHITMAN - The female half of a cheerful song and dance team.
- THEODORE WHITMAN - Emily's husband.
- SOLANGE LAFITTE - A Broadway Parisienne.
- ROSCOE - The Follies' famous tenor whose golden tones saluted Mr. Weismann's exquisite taste in feminine pulchritude.
- DIMITRI WEISMANN - An impresario who flourished between the wars and whose name became a byword for style and opulence.
- KEVIN - A easily-seduceable waiter.
OTHER GUESTS and PERFORMERS, STAGE MANAGER, WAITERS, WAITRESSES, PHOTOGRAPHERS, SHOWGIRLS, etc.
REED I - Piccolo, Flute, Alto Flute, Soprano Sax, Alto Sax, Clarinet, Eb Clarinet
REED II - Piccolo, Flute, Alto Sax, Clarinet
REED III - Flute, Tenor Sax, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet
REED IV - Oboe, Cor Anglais, Tenor Sax, Clarinet
REED V - Flute, Baritone Sax, Clarinet, Bassoon
CAPITOL S0761 - Original Cast
RCA VICTOR RD 87128 - Concert recording
FIRST NIGHT ENCORE CD3 - London Cast