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CD review: 'Follies' New Broadway Cast Recording

December 7, 2011 |  9:00 am

"Follies" New Broadway Cast Recording
"Follies" New Broadway Cast Recording

(PS Classics)

The score Stephen Sondheim wrote for “Follies” is mind-bogglingly lush — rivaled only perhaps by “Sweeney Todd.” Most cast recordings focus on those songs that have been interpreted again and again — “Broadway Baby,” “In Buddy’s Eyes,” “I’m Still Here” and, of course, everyone’s favorite romantic nervous breakdown number, “Losing My Mind.”

PS Classics' "Follies" New Broadway Cast Recording provides a fuller experience of the entire show, including incidental music and setup dialogue. Nearly 110 minutes long, this two-disc set isn’t for those who just want to sing along in the car. But it’s the most convenient way to experience the current revival -- starring Bernadette Peters and Jan Maxwell as former Follies girls haunted by their life choices -- before it arrives at the Ahmanson Theatre (with a cast to be announced) in May.
The 28-piece orchestra, conducted by music director James Moore, creates a sound so sumptuous you won’t have any trouble imagining yourself at the Marquis Theatre. Jayne Houdyshell delivers a vintage trooper rendition of “Broadway Baby” (the upside of casting the role with an ace character actor) and Elaine Paige, doyenne of the British musical theater, knocks out a vocally spectacular “I’m Still Here” that ought to become a classic alongside Elaine Stritch’s sublimely gravelly version. And although Peters and Maxwell portray unhappily married wives, they mesh perfectly well with their onstage spouses played by Danny Burstein and Ron Raines.

The character exchanges need more context than a recording can provide. The acting, as a result, can seem stilted, which wasn’t the case when I saw the show earlier this fall. But when the music is in full flow, as it is during the fantasy Follies number “Loveland,” the feeling is that of a cascading dream.


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 — Charles McNulty\charlesmcnulty