Wednesday, February 01, 2012

At the Feet of Follies

In January I had the opportunity to see Follies on Broadway three more times before it closed.   Once was with Byrne of  courtesy of Jesse at   All three times were in front orchestra seats, the final two at the very feet of those beautiful girls of Follies, front row center - once with Kari on her birthday and once with my little love Noah.   What a thrill!  

I loved every moment, but particularly the performances of Bernadette Peters as "Sally," Terri White as "Stella," and Rosalind Elias as "Heide."   All three women captured the essence of Follies - braving this reunion and being forced to look back at their younger years as performers, and relive those moments when their current reality is perhaps not what they dreamed it would be.   

Terri has the big show stopper of each night, "Who's That Woman," also known as "The Mirror Number." All the ladies join her in the number, remembering their big number from at least thirty years ago, but they are in it for the fun of the memory and the proof that they've still got the legs to do it.   But seeing the look on Terri's face in between her twirls and ace hoofing was what did it to me - there was an air of triumph but also pain in that she somehow knew she had the where with all to take it all but gave it up for an ordinary life of singing in the shower.   All around her, the ladies are laughing and whooping it up and she's in command, but there's that pain on the surface.   It's a number that makes me feel whistfulness for what could have, while simultaneously making me smile until I think my face might break.  

Rosalind Elias' character Heidi is the oldest lady at this reunion.  She was perhaps a diva and her number was an operatic aria.   All of the ghosts of Follies are their to witness her look back and know that she will soon join them.   She takes her chance to sing her aria, a number written for her, but there's an air of realization that this "One Last Kiss" is the final chance.   She seems to accept that her life is nearly over when she sees the ghost of her own younger self.  It's poignant, yet absolutely thrilling.  

Bernadette is one of the most beautiful women around and she's more lovely and caring than most people I know.  What you see is what you get and she's everything you want her to be.   But seeing Bernadette up close as "Sally" deepened my belief that this woman as actress can do anything.     Her character Sally is fragile and broken and she has believed that she has wanted only one thing for the last 30 years, a man she could never have.   Sally is not the character to love, or even like.   She probably suffers from mental disease, perhaps as severe as bi-polar disorder.    It is the most difficult character of Follies - she's not stylish or glamourous like her counterpart; she's come to the reunion only to have one more chance to get what she believes she wants; and she's on the verge of breakdown.   Bernadette portrayed all of these unlikeable characteristics of Sally, literally crying through the performance while traveling all of the emotional peaks and valleys that Sally goes through in the evening.  She took me on this journey with her, rooting and hoping for her to realize her dream, even when I knew it would or even could happen.   I'll never forget seeing her face so completely soaked from tears while singing "Losing My Mind" so perfectly.  

After a successful run at the Kennedy Center and a thrilling run at the Marquis Theatre on Broadway, Follies  is moving Los Angeles in May.   Of these three actresses I loved so much through this run, only Terri is going on to the next leg.   She'll hoof her way into the hearts of Los Angeles without me.   Seeing Follies at the very feet of these beautiful girls is enough to last me a lifetime.

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