The musical “Follies” idolizes the days of Ziegfeld Follies while also poking fun at them.
As a result, theatergoers get show-stopping numbers of the Vaudeville era as well as a deeper look at the past dreams and present follies of the characters. Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of “Follies,” by Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman, captures both sides of the show exceptionally well.
The musical opens in 1971—three decades after the Weisman Follies at were in their heyday. The performers gather at their abandoned Broadway theater one last time before it’s torn down to make way for a parking lot.
As the dancers mingle with one another, the ghosts of their younger selves—in gorgeous showgirl regalia—walk among them, unnoticed. The older women dance with their ghosts in numbers like “Who’s That Woman,” making for an entertaining yet haunting experience.
The show centers around two married couples: Sally and Buddy, and Phyllis and Ben. All friends in their youth, Sally and Ben reconnect at the reunion over their long-forgotten romance; the more alcohol they consume, the more past and present collapse.
But it’s the women of the Weissman Follies that truly steal the show. Susan Moniz as Sally belts out a soul-searching rendition of “Losing My Mind” while Caroline O’Connor as Phyllis spits venom into Sondheim’s lyrics during “Could I Leave You?” She also leads the charge in “The Story of Lucy and Jessie,” which boasts the spiciest choreography of the show.
The vocal high point of the first act, however, is when Hollis Resnik—as Carlotta— sings “I’m Still Here.” Her performance will give audience members chills.
A strong ensemble, coupled with director Gary Griffin’s smart decision to stage the orchestra as the show’s backdrop, make “Follies” the perfect show to kick off Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s 25th season.