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‘Falling in love with musical theatre all over again’: ‘Follies’ review

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Rating:

Having never seen a production of Follies before, I did my research and discovered what I considered to be a very sad story. Set in the 1970s, it tells the tale of a reunion party between the performers of the Weismann Theatre’s ‘Follies,’ thirty years after their theatre careers. Resentful and bitter, two couples begin to lose their resolve as the consequences of past choices come to the surface.

With so many turbulent emotions to communicate, and past and present scenes often taking place at the same time, Follies is a difficult play to perform exceptionally. But MTW, an incredibly talented bunch, did just that – and made it fun, lively and hilarious.

The most outstanding feature was the choreography. The song ‘Who’s That Woman,’ which sees all the female characters perform an old number together, has a complex and fantastic tap routine. Stella, played vibrantly and soulfully by Fiona Adu, leads the group and joyfully reminisces as they dance. Dancers representing the characters’ younger selves eventually join in, leading to a huge number of people on stage performing various parts. The audience loved every second, cheering and roaring all the way through. It communicated the beauty and excitement of being a young girl working in the theatre, and brought so much energy to the room.

MTW, an incredibly talented bunch, made it fun, lively and hilarious

The costumes were clever, with each character linked to their older self by wearing a matching colour. With so many dancers on stage it made each person identifiable, and is something that doesn’t seem to have been done before. The orchestra also did a fantastic job, taking the performance to another level by making every movement significant.

The star of the show was Robert Madge as Buddy. He expressed Buddy’s torment about his wife Sally through his movements, jumping and turning almost violently. The passion, energy and frustration in “The God-Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me Blues” for me was better than Danny Burstein’s 2012 rendition of the song. Madge communicates Buddy’s anguish seamlessly, swinging from joy to despair in an instant. Florian Panzieri’s incredible vocals also deserve a mention, performing master of ceremonies Roscoe effortlessly.

The orchestra did a fantastic job, taking the performance to another level by making every movement significant

One possible change could be to the later scenes where some characters perform solo songs. They often stood in one place for most of the duration, which seemed out of place next to other performances, though this contrast could indeed be deliberate. There also were a few technical glitches that meant at times performers could not be heard over the music. But these slight problems went almost unnoticed. How upbeat yet sincere the performance was took me by surprise in the best way possible.

With stunning choreography, laughs and waves of emotion, this is definitely worth a watch. The plot leaves you with a strange emptiness as you feel the story’s regret and frustration. But despite this, the actors bring so much life and fun through their movements, vocals and confidence. It’s one thing to have energy, and an even better thing to channel it into a character so well. My first ever viewing of an MTW production has five stars for making me fall in love with musical theatre all over again.

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