Review: 'Follies' by Warner Stage Company

Review: 'Follies' by Warner Stage Company

Nancy Sasso Janis

Someday, maybe,
All my dreams will be repaid.
Heck, I'd even play the maid
To be in a show. - "Broadway Baby"

Torrington, CT - ‘Follies’ is a glimpse into the lives of the chorus girls that once graced the stage of the Weismann Theatre, a crumbling building that is about to be torn down to make room for a parking lot. In the 1970s, the Warner Theatre in Torrington faced a similar fate. The epic Sondheim musical that is set in a once magnificent Broadway theatre comes to life on the now beautiful Warner Theatre stage. 

The women gather for a reunion on the empty stage as the ghosts of their former selves come back to help tell their stories in this musical that Executive in Charge of Production Sharon A. Wilcox told us during her curtain speech ran four times on Broadway, right before she turned off the ghost light so that the show could begin. Director Michael Berkeley, who had a long history of directing at Sharon Playhouse, brings out the beauty of what he calls “a show about memory, misguided dreams and roads not taken.” The book for ‘Follies,’ and don’t miss the subtle reference to the folly of one’s choices, was written by James Goldman with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim 

This is not easy music to perform and music director Willard C. Minton did an amazing job with both the vocalist and his 23 musicians in the orchestra pit that he conducted. Donna Bonasera provided the choreography and Stephen C. Houk worked his usual magic with the deconstructed set design, which was lit beautifully by LBC Lighting. Co-costume designers Matt Dettmer and Renee C. Purdy put together spectacular showgirl ensembles, as well as the formal clothes for the party goers and some wonderful period wigs. Mr. Dettmer recently designed the costumes for ‘The Gondoliers’ at WCSU. Lesley Neilson Bowman was in charge of millinery. 

The always fabulous Juliette Koch starred in the role of Sally Durant Plummer and brought her A game to the difficult part. Ms. Koch has done over 25 productions at the Warner in the last 15 years. Her rendition of “Losing My Mind” could not have been better. Sally’s former roommate Phyllis Rogers Stone was played very convincingly by Suzanne Powers (‘Assassins.’) Her part in The Follies section of the second act was Phyllis’ Folly “The Story of Lucy and Jessie” and was memorable. William Molnar returned to the stage after a long hiatus to play Benjamin Stone and was outstanding in the role. His performance of “Live, Laugh, Love” was memorable in its intensity and his tenor singing voice was flawless. I look forward to seeing him in other local productions. Sally’s husband Buddy was played well by Chris Gilbert. 

The younger versions of these four characters were played by Shannon Sullivan (Young Sally,) Becky Sawicki (Young Phyllis,) Eric Lindblom (Young Ben,) and Cole Sutton (Young Buddy.) All of these community theatre pros did a great job.

Eve Van Syckle was beautiful as former showgirl Carlotta Campoin and sang the classic “I’m Still Here” very well. Susan Kulp was Stella Deems and she got to sing “Who’s That Woman?” with the ladies. Elyse Jasensky was Hattie Walker; she got to perform “Broadway Baby.” The fabulous Priscilla Squiers was the French Solange LaFitte; she sang “Ah, Paris” in the montage. Katherine Walker played Emily Whitman and Dave Cadwell was her husband Theodore; the duo got to sing “Rain on the Roof.” Susan Meiras understudied the role of Heidi Schiller at the performance I attended, and Young Heidi was Amy LeBlanc for their number “One More Kiss.” Hope Murphy played the role of Young Stella. 

Jim Wood was the dapper Dimitri Weismann and Payton Turpin played the MC Roscoe. Nora DeDominicis played Christine Donovan, Wedny Traub was Dee Dee West, Andrew Valentine was Kevin the waiter. Kudos to Darcy Boynton, Amber Cameron (Lola in ‘Damn Yankees’) and Kelsey Morris who posed as the lovely showgirls and the excellent dancers Dean Saccardi and Joshua Shakeshaft that were ensemble men. And was that Ms. Wilcox I saw dancing during the "Mirror, Mirror" scene?

I commend the Warner Stage Company for choosing this legendary masterpiece, considered by many to be the greatest musical ever created, to produce on the magnificent stage at the Warner. The audience was relatively sparse on the performance during the second weekend that I attended, on what was a miserably rainy Saturday evening. Those of us who made it that evening appreciated the hard work that had been done by this fine cast and production team that took on the demands of this piece. 

Photo Credit: Mandi Martini
©2017 The Warner Theatre

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Nancy Sasso Janis is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and continues to contribute to local Patch.com sites. Check out her new Facebook page Nancy Sasso Janis: Theatre Reviewer and follow her on Twitter @nancysjanis417

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