Emotions run high in the intense revival of “Follies,” by Director David Long, where the characters look back on their lives and wonder how they made it to where they are today. The Genesius Guild in Hammond, Indiana sets the stage for this astounding revival which originally appeared on Broadway in 1971. The seasoned performers who make up the cast of this musical drama create an experience which will touch audience members of all ages.
Past performers, about 20 characters total, come together one last time before the Weissman Theatre is torn down and replaced by a parking lot years after leaving the stage. The musical revolves around two couples, Phyllis (Lisa Woodruff) and Benjamin Stone (Steve Becker) and Sally (Leslie Evans) and Buddy Plummer (Kevin Sherman), who recall what their lives were like when they used to perform at the Weissman Theatre. The memories of the characters’ past play out exquisitely onstage alongside the present day characters. The musical begins with light hearted talk and memories but, as the musical progresses, the characters reveal their despair as they realize where their lives brought them.
While the entire cast performs skillfully, Becker and Evans own the stage as they portray the elder Benjamin Stone and Sally Plummer. Their excellent stage presence throughout the entire musical gives intensity and enthusiasm to their roles. This makes them the best part of the musical and leaves the audience waiting for their next performance. Matthew Domasica (Young Benjamin) and Caitlyn Desjardins (Young Sally) prove age means nothing when it comes to stellar performances. They own the memories which plague Benjamin and Sally’s thoughts, contributing as much flair as their elder selves. Domasica (Young Benjamin) and Desjardins (Young Sally) have onstage chemistry so genuine the audience is left in awe of their flawless performances.
Vocal and Music Director David Markley does a brilliant job directing the performers and his tireless efforts reflect in the cast through inspiring numbers. Actress Angie Lowe (Hattie Walker) begins her performance of the song “Broadway Baby” unsure of herself and a little shy. However, as the song continues, Lowe gains confidence and does a wonderful job showing off her vocal talent. Maggie Reister (Solange La Fitte) plays a convincing French woman. Unfortunately, Reister’s lyrics in her moving performance of “Ah, Paris!” get lost due to her thick French accent. Allen Horner (Roscoe) takes the audience’s breath away in the opening song, “Beautiful Girls,” showing off his robust voice and ability to hold notes longer than most. Sadly, Horner does not have another solo in the remaining of the musical.
“Who’s That Woman” by Stella Deems (LuAnne Pezel) and company was the most entertaining song and dance performance in the entire musical. The whole female cast appears onstage, singing and dancing their hearts out. The audience knows for a fact these women enjoy being onstage with big smiles on their faces and a few who appear to be laughing. A lot of time and hard work must be put into such a performance to make it as exceptional and exciting as this one was.
Seeing as this is a musical with music and lyrics written by the talented Stephen Sondheim (Sweeney Todd, West Side Story), the music brought this production to a whole different level. The orchestra has seven members and is located on stage left. While the orchestra performed well, at times they overpowered the voices of the actors which made the dialogue, and in some cases the singing, difficult to hear.
Hammond, Indiana’s “Follies” is capable of touching the hearts of all generations with the right ensemble of cast and production staff. Long’s production does just that with an outstanding cast of Northwest Indiana residents who took on a challenging musical and pulled off a smash hit.