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The show opened well, with the showgirls processing round the stage and down the stairs, which set the scene, and also I assume using the overture, again always a plus.  

The set was well-constructed, and used well by the cast, with props moved seamlessly on and off.  Lighting was for the most part good, and added atmosphere to the production – mostly sound was good.

Clive Ogden again showed his prowess for working with the cast to get meaning and expression in their musical numbers, although with an experienced cast such as this, it probably wasn’t a too difficult job!  The ensemble numbers had some good harmonies.

Follies is a strange show, in that it flicks from past to present, but people I was speaking to who didn’t know the show, said they had understood it all, so Mr Cox had obviously got the interaction well.  It seemed to me to be better thought out than previous productions I’ve seen, making it more understandable.

I liked the white backdrop that suddenly fell in, and then dropped to the floor and was whisked away – leaving the cast ready for the period-piece of Loveland – which always seems to be rather an expensive scene, all those lovely costumes and wigs for one number – but I suppose it is part of the story.

The ‘Folly’ numbers in Act 2 were all very well presented, I particularly liked Sally’s number – Losing My Mind – which was very elegant and sophisticated in both costume and presentation, and showed us once again what an accomplished performer Charlotte Gregory is.

In Folly of Youth – the four performers did not seem to always be completely on the button with their respective lines, and in Ben’s Folly number the girls spacing was not consistent, stage right with stage left – which spoiled an otherwise good number.

I’m Still Here seemed to be overlong – and although Debby Connor put the music over well, it began to get a bit repetitive towards the end.

David Duffy as Roscoe gave us a great vocal start to the show, and a good ending – nicely accomplished.

There are certain numbers that stand out, and these were well-performed by the relevant cast members, Broadway Baby as delivered by a sparkling Linda Dyne, Who’s That Woman, a splendid performance by Iris Harmon, delivering an excellent show number, and of course Losing My Mind, a fantastic vehicle for Charlotte Gregory.

These three ladies in particular gave us the essence and understanding of three totally different but old time showgirls, the gauche Sally, the rather raunchy Hattie and the elegant Stella.  I thought the contrasts and dimensions they created helped lift the show.

Sean Lydon in his first role for SAOS, was a convincing Buddy, I loved his portrayal, and also his delivery of his Folly number.  He gave us a glimpse of an old time showman, which I thought was very good.  His relationship with Sally was believable, showing her to be naive and chaotic, whilst he was straying but jealous.

Andy Nicol, another first timer with SAOS, was a rather world-weary, self-absorbed Ben – I thought the relationship between him and Stella, played by Fenella Lee got all the nuances of a love/hate partnership – which gave us some very sparky but also reflective moments.  Fenella got the brittle, unfulfilled feeling of Stella extremely well.

The four younger cast members who covered the four main characters, Andrea Campusano as Sally, Hannamarie Cook as Phyllis, Alan Baked as Buddy and Oliver David as Ben – all created good characters, and they knitted well with their older counterparts, making the transitions between young and old appear completely right.

Pam Homan as Heidi showed a warmth that possibly some of the other characters did not have, which again was a good contrast with Shell Clohessy as her young version also showing the warmer side of her nature.

The other ex-showgirls and their counterparts showed the rather brittle side of their natures, which would be in keeping with a performer in those times.

Jeanne Cavill and Clive Webb as Emily and Theodore Whitman showed us a nice understanding of a couple long involved with stage and each other, whilst Jane Foufas was a very full on Solange, which suited the part.

I liked Jackie Pulford as Christine, she showed that her character was still enthusiastic about her once-time job, with Tony Bradburn as the suave Dimitri contrasting with the other men, in that he was the impresario who brought them all together.  Joyce Smith also looked lovely and added elegance to the older showgirls line up.

The other principals all contributed to the general good look and pace of the production, but I can’t mention everyone by name!

The showgirls coped very well with some lovely, but quite revealing costumes, which needed some managing before they even thought about the dances they had to do, but they looked good and mostly got the rather stylised way of presenting oneself that showgirls adopted.

So, although I’m not a fan of the show itself, I could appreciate the general look of the production, good scenery, lavish costumes and some good portrayals, that brought the whole show to life.

My thanks to Mary who made John and myself so welcome – our good wishes to Eve who we missed, and once again it was good to catch up with so many like-minded colleagues.

St. Albans Operatic Society

FOLLIES”review date: 8th Nov 2013

at Alban Arena, St Albans

Director: Alan Cox    MD: Clive Ogden

Choreographers: Penny Joyner & Claire Stanley

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