The Tabard Theatre Company’s new Follies Concert Version puts the capital S in Show. From the moment the house lights dim at the Theatre on San Pedro Square and the cast makes its way through the house toward the stage, tension between the characters tickles the audience’s awareness while the sequin-spattered costumes rivet every eye in the house.
A classically constructed musical comedy by Stephen Sondheim, Follies is a romantic tragedy, too. Director Diane Milo also stars as Sally, a mousy middle-aged former showgirl. She and her husband, Buddy, are attending a reunion of fellow performers inside an old vaudeville palace the night before it’s slated to be demolished. Mild-mannered Buddy (Kevin Kirby) must bear his wife’s growing excitement at seeing her old flame, diplomat and millionaire Ben Stone.
Ben (Tim Reynolds) appears, along with his coolly elegant wife, Phyllis, another ex-showgirl (Jennifer Tice). Old passions burst into new flames as old performers reminisce about dreams long dead and ghosts of innocent young men and women re-enact the lives and loves behind the scenes of 1940s Broadway. The first act is stolen by Tyler Risk in the role of jaded film star Carlotta, singing the bitingly funny number “I’m Still Here.”
The romantic plot slows down as the cast enters the imaginary Loveland in Act 2. On the other hand, the clothes get even louder, going not just over the top but across the fashion summit and halfway down the other side.
Tabard’s executive director Cathy Cassetta designed the costumes for this glitz-heavy show. The glittering outfits mirror their wearers’ personalities—a useful device for audience members who are new to Follies and may have trouble keeping track of characters in the large cast.
The lighting design by Beric Dunn also suits the show’s complexities like a spangled glove. The set, encompassing all of Theatre on San Pedro Square, displays ingenious creativity. It’s tough to stage a big Broadway musical in a small black-box theater, but Gerald Carter makes it sing.
By comparison, the sound work sags some. In such a small space, miking every actor—especially with so many strong singers—seems unnecessary. On Saturday night, there were problems with both cutout and static at times. The choreography doesn’t shine either, especially next to the creativity of Milo’s direction, the grand performances of the lead actors, and the skill of the tiny orchestra.
Despite a few imperfections, this show comes together well. Audiences get a good evening’s entertainment from the song and dance and drama of Follies.