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FOLLIES 2018 National Theatre Cast Recording | Review

FOLLIES – 2018 National Theatre Cast Recording For those who have been fortunate enough to have seen this production, no expense has been spared, or so it would seem – and the same appears to go for the album. As Follies prepares to return to the National Theatre, there’s been much hype over the release of the cast recording. At the time of writing, it is available in digital format, and the physical compact disc (for those who still use them, including yours truly) will be released in due course. These are Stephen Sondheim tunes (as you know), with a grace and elegance that befits the characters portrayed. Many elements of the storyline have a common familiarity in our day and age, despite being set in 1971 and having plenty of reminisces of the interwar period. How many buildings in London and other urban conurbations are being pulled down and replaced with something else?

Tunes like ‘I’m Still Here’ (sung here by Tracie Bennett with her trademark deep vocals) and ‘Losing My Mind’ are popular at the sort of concerts that draw together songs from various musicals. Those, and others are performed very well indeed here. The score takes the listener back to the days of the golden era of musicals. One doesn’t see the visual effects of characters being faced with the ghosts of the past, though this album conveys the mixed feelings such scenes evoke quite remarkably. Oh, and the tap dancing in ‘Who’s That Woman?’ is captured wonderfully, too.

I couldn’t detect any stand-out performances – far from being a deficiency of the production, it is instead indicative of how good each member of the cast is. That said, I particularly enjoyed Dame Josephine Barstow’s rendering of ‘One More Kiss’ (as I did when I saw the show at the National Theatre), and Imelda Staunton brings a palpable if misplaced joy as her Sally has her reasons for thinking she is the apple of her husband’s eye in ‘In Buddy’s Eyes’.

While some of the songs are, on a surface level, expressions of happiness and pleasure, it becomes clear, listening to the musical numbers afresh, how bittersweet the characters have become. This, after all, is a trip down memory lane, and there are almost inevitably, with the benefit of hindsight, regrets – or, at least, missed opportunities, perhaps most evident in ‘The Road You Didn’t Take’ (a song omitted in the 1987 Original London Cast Recording). Some lyrics are refreshingly honest – take, for instance, ‘The Story of Jessie and Lucy’, with lyrics such as: “Lucy wants to be dressy / Jessie wants to be juicy / Lucy wants to be Jessie / And Jessie Lucy”. The orchestra, directed by Nigel Lilley, are in fine form.

The majesty and magnificence of the score is clearly evident in this stunning recording. In some ways, it is slightly disappointing that this isn’t a recorded-as-live album, but this studio recording is well worth a listen (or two, or ten). But there’s really nothing to complain about with a cast album that is full of heart and technical brilliance. It may not have the Very Happy Ending of some other musicals, but this album is a worthy addition to a musical theatre enthusiast’s library.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

The critically-acclaimed musical tells the story of the former performers of Weismann’s Follies, reunited for the first time in their theatre which is to be demolished the next day. Thirty years after their final performance, the Follies girls gather to have a few drinks, sing a few songs and lie about themselves. The show includes musical hits such as I’m Still Here, Broadway Baby and Losing My Mind. 

Following its 2018 Olivier Award wins for Best Musical Revival and Best Costume Design and a sold-out run at the National Theatre, the original cast and orchestra behind FOLLIES release its much-anticipated London Cast Recording. FOLLIES returns to the National Theatre’s Olivier Theatre on February 12th 2019.

FOLLIES – 2018 National Theatre Cast Recording was recorded at RAK Studios in London with world-renowned producer Nigel Wright, conducted by Olivier Nominee Nigel Lilley and mixed by SMP Studios, Buckinghamshire. The soundtrack cast includes Julie Armstrong, Norma Attallah, Josephine Barstow, Jeremy Batt, Tracie Bennett, Di Botcher, Billy Boyle, Janie Dee, Anouska Eaton, Liz Ewing, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Peter Forbes, Emily Goodenough, Bruce Graham, Adrian Grove, Fred Haig, Aimee Hodnett, Dawn Hope, Liz Izen, Alison Langer, Emily Langham, Sarah-Marie Maxwell, Ian McLarnon, Leisha Mollyneux, Gemma Page, Kate Parr, Philip Quast, Edwin Ray, Gary Raymond, Adam Rhys-Charles, Jordan Shaw, Imelda Staunton, Zizi Strallen, Barnaby Thompson, Christine Tucker, Michael Vinsen and Alex Young.

FOLLIES Track Listing
1. Prologue
2. Beautiful Girls
3. Don’t Look At Me
4. Waiting For The Girls Upstairs
5. Rain On The Roof / Ah, Paris! / Broadway Baby (Medley)
6. The Road You Didn’t Take
7. In Buddy’s Eyes
8. Who’s That Woman?
9. I’m Still Here
10. Too Many Mornings
11. The Right Girl
12. One More Kiss
13. Could I Leave You?
14. Loveland
15. You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow / Love Will See Us Through (Medley)
16. Buddy’s Blues
17. Losing My Mind
18. The Story Of Lucy and Jessie
19. Live, Laugh, Love
20. End of Show

FOLLIES returns to the National Theatre with previews from 12 February 2019, with many of the original
cast including Tracie Bennett, Janie Dee and Peter Forbes returning to their roles. Alexander Hanson and
Joanna Riding will join the cast in the roles of Ben and Sally. More information and tickets can be found
here: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/follies

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