On Thursday evening, after months of waiting I finally saw the National Theatre Live screening of Follies.
I have to be honest and admit I went in not really having any idea of what to expect. My knowledge only went as far knowing it was about a showgirl reunion and it was a Sondheim classic. However, it was already onto a winner in my world.
If you’re also unfamiliar with the story, It’s set in New York, 1971 and there’s a party on the stage of the Weismann Theatre. Tomorrow the iconic building will be demolished, so 30 years after their final performance, the Follies girls gather to have a few drinks, sing a few songs and lie about themselves – causing the truth to spill out. It’s cleverly told with the story splitting between the past and present, with younger versions of themselves revealing elements of the truth. It’s so gripping as you really sympathise with each character and their story.
The music is beautiful. I’m a bit of a Stephen Sondheim fan, and the show includes classic songs such as Broadway Baby, I’m Still Here and Losing My Mind and it certainly feels timeless and theatrical.
Imelda Staunton absolutely shines. I’ve been a fan of her films for some time now, and I also saw the televised screening of her in Gypsy and her talent is rather mesmerising. I hope I get the chance to see her on stage one day. Janie Dee totally won my heart. Zizzi Strallen and Alex Young make charming younger versions of Staunton and Dee’s characters. Though, the entire cast are wonderful.
In terms of it being screened live from London, it was certainly an exciting experience. My first in fact, as the previous theatre-to-screen showings I’ve been to had all been recorded in advance. I didn’t find too many issues with the screening itself, more a fault of my cinema forgetting to turn off the lights! Though I feel I have to comment on the “no interval” debate – considering we witnessed an additional 15 minutes with interview and preview footage, I ended up in immense pain thanks to my bladder! Perhaps having dinner beforehand wasn’t so wise? I usually don’t get too fazed at shows, and I did stick it out, but I noted a few couldn’t help but need to pop out. Therefore although it flowed nicely without, I do think if you’re doing a show that’s pushing 2 hours or more, there should be an interval. Toilet queues are often lengthy at the theatre, but I think the audience should be given the chance to go as it’s not so easy to hold for everyone.
Overall, it’s such an exciting revival of this beloved musical and it seems to fit perfectly into the National Theatre. I’m yet to physically visit this venue, and now I wish I could see the show live on stage – however, it’s great that audiences across the nation (and world?!) have been given the chance to enjoy this rare but glorious staging. I think this Follies revival will be fondly remembered for years to come, and if you can’t make it to London before it closes on January 3rd, stay tuned for future encore screenings.
Also: shout out to the lovely man I got chatting to before and after the screening!
♥ MOLLY THE BLOGGER ♥