» » Great Performances Follies in Concert (1971– )

Short summary

Film of the legendary 1985 concert performance presented by the New York Philharmonic of Stephen Sondheim's classic musical at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. The plot of the musical centers around a reunion of showgirls who appeared in an annual Follies extravaganza when it was staged between the wars. Sally and Phyllis are two of these former showgirls, now middle-aged. Sally is married to Buddy, and Phyllis is married to Ben. Sally is unhappy with Buddy, and still is madly in love with Ben after a brief affair they had when they were younger. Phyllis is going to divorce Ben, so all seems right. But the reason Phyllis is divorcing Ben is because he is incapable of showing real, genuine love. Will Sally truly be happy if she leaves Buddy and marries Ben? Okay, the plot isn't much, but the songs are wonderful. The show features frequent "pastiche numbers" in which other former showgirls perform numbers in the style of the period in which this Follies was staged. These numbers, ...

The original Broadway production of "Follies" opened at the Winter Garden Theater in New York on April 4, 1971, ran for 522 performances and was nominated for the 1972 Tony Awards for the Best Musical, Book and Score.

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: Arar
    "Follies" is Sondheim at the very peak of his songwriting prowess. It's a virtuoso turn with a series of pastiche songs relating to musical theater numbers in a variety of styles. His later works became less reliant on individual songs moving towards an operatic style, which he achieved so beautifully in both "Sweeney Todd" and "Passion". Song for song, you would be hard pressed to come up with a musical as impeccably written as "Follies".

    It's a great shame that there is no existing video, or even complete recording of the original Broadway production. It's one of those magical occurrences where it call comes together. There certainly have been bigger stars than Alexis Smith, Dorothy Collins or Yvonne de Carlo and yet the performances of the 1971 production, almost inexplicably, remain distinctly definitive.

    From the start "Follies in Concert" was intended by all concerned to become the definitive "Follies", with an all star cast backed by no less than the New York Philharmonic. This was in fact the motivating factor for the event being staged at all. The concert was most certainly a terrific theatrical event. The stars did not disappoint and the orchestra sounded great. But despite this, it widely failed in its quest to become the definitive version. Once again, this is not easily explained. There simply wasn't the legendary magic with which the original production was blessed. You cannot make magic in the theater by employing the very best; it either happens or it doesn't.

    The documentary section of this film is of great interest. The musical theater stars such as Barbara Cook, Elaine Stritch, Phylis Newman as well as film stars Lee Remick and Carol Burnett all come across with a rarely seen naturalness. It's as if they are truly humbled by the material itself.

    The performance segments are too short for my liking. It's a treat watching these professionals at work, singing such glorious music.

    But when all is said and done, this is no match all for the much loved 1971 Original Broadway production.
  • comment
    • Author: Priotian
    FOLLIES was one of Stephen Sondheim's most glorious musicals with one of the most memorable scores he has ever written. A huge score and a cast of over 40 major characters, it is a huge undertaking in any form and this concert version was no exception. FOLLIES was the story of a reunion that takes place in a an old theater, about to be demolished, among several follies performers from the past, now in their 50's, 60's, and 70's, reuniting for a final goodbye to their theater, orchestrated by the fictional theatrical director, Dimitri Wiseman. The bulk of the show focuses on four central characters, Ben, Sally, Buddy, and Phyllis. Ben and Sally were in love many years ago, but now Sally is married to Buddy and Ben is married to Phyllis but old feelings eventually find their way to the surface in this landmark musical. Sondheim hand-picked an a amazing cast for this concert, headlined by George Hearn as Ben, Lee Remick as Phyllis, Mandy Patinkin as Buddy and the legendary Barbara Cook as Sally. Hearn and Cook flawlessly perform the haunting duet "Too Many Mornings" in which Ben and Sally explore old feelings. Hearn also scores on "The Road You Didn't Take" and Cook's rendition of "In Buddy's Eyes" is just breathtaking and has become part of her current cabaret act. Remick has a ball with "Could I Leave You?" and "The Story of Lucy and Jesse" and Patinkin stops the show with "Buddy's Blues." Other highlights include Carol Burnett as Carlotta, singing "I'm Still Here" and Broadway legend Elaine Stritch, who brings down the house with "Broadway Baby". Phyllis Newman effectively leads the female ensemble in "Who's that Woman?" and there is an amazing quartet called "You're Gonna Love Tomorrow/Love Will See us Through" which features BABY's Liz Calloway and Broadway's current Phantom, Howard McGillen. The version I saw on Showtime also includes backstage rehearsal footage, showing longtime Sondheim musical director Paul Gemigiani coaching Hearn and Cook on "Too Many Mornings" and Lee Remick and Patinkin sitting in a rehearsal hall, mesmerized as Barbara Cook rehearses "In Buddy's Eyes." There is even a moment with George Hearn moments before curtain where he confesses to writing lyrics he tends to forget on his hand. This concert is a must for all Sondheim fans and FOLLIES fans in particular, since this is probably the closest thing we will ever have to a film version of FOLLIES. Don't miss it...a joy from start to finish.
  • comment
    • Author: Modigas
    Stephen Sondheim's 1971 musical "Follies" was a long-running show which failed to win back its investment. It has been performed dozens of times all over the world, yet prior to this 1985 Lincoln Center Concert had never been completely recorded. While the concert does not fully tell the story of the original show, it did, for the first time, fully capture the glorious score on the recording. Broadway veterans Barbara Cook, Mandy Pantinkan, George Hearn, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Elaine Stritch were joined by film and TV stars Carol Burnett and Lee Remick (both of whom had stage experience as well) to give full life to the magic that is Sondheim.

    They first take us behind the scenes in a rehearsal hall where we are introduced to the performers (also including Lilianne Montevecchi, Erie Mills, among others), then to the actual place where it will come alive in front of a sold-out audience. There are bits of the performer's real personalities coming out (particularly Elaine Stritch's) as the rehearsal moves onto opening night of the concert. Shots of Herbert Ross (the director) are interspersed with the music. The sequences of the concert are abbreviated for time, but most of the numbers (particularly Phyllis Newman's production number "Who's That Woman?") are fairly intact. No one can stop a show like Stritch can (as proved by her recent one-woman show), and she gets the largest round of applause with her entrance. Her performance of "Broadway Baby" (abbreviated here a bit, but heard completely on the concert recording and her own one-woman show CD) is equivalent in power to her earlier Sondheim showstopper "The Ladies Who Lunch" (from "Company"); If you saw her one-woman show (which I did), you get a glimpse of the delightfully eccentric and witty woman she naturally is. When she tells a joke about 90 somethings getting a divorce or makes a crack at Phyllis Newman, it simply becomes the type of theater stuff that legends are made of.

    While there have been several recordings of "Follies" since this (the Paper Mill Playhouse recording includes songs cut before the 1971 production, plus some of this cast as well), this is one that will go down in legends. "Follies", as I have seen twice on stage, is a hard show to produce for several reasons. The 2001 Broadway Revival got mixed reviews for its lack of production design, but was filled with magnificent performances, while a recent Los Angeles All-Star cast could not do justice even with the many names among the cast. So with a movie version of the film not available (or likely to be done), this record of what the show is about is a more than average alternative.
  • comment
    • Author: Cetnan
    This rare video has until now been selling for $100, used, if you can find a copy. Now we can own it for a song, and watch it anytime!

    See this! It is a wonderful evening, and you'll never forget the thunderous ovation the ladies receive in "Beautiful Girls."
  • comment
    • Author: Mavegelv
    Follies is one of Stephen Sondheim's best from personal opinion. Difficult both vocally and in terms of staging- Sondheim at his most large-scale probably- but the music is simply beautiful and the lyrics clever and witty. The story is very charming and relateable as well. Follies in Concert is a delight, abbreviated rather than complete which may disappoint fans. But because it is so well done and interesting it works just beautifully. Some of the performance scenes are too short and there could have been more too. However, the behind the scenes and rehearsal footage is of great interest, and the performers seem really natural and fully engaged when interviewed. Elaine Stritch's personality just comes to life, and George Hearn from what is heard from it is remarkably candid. The performance and documentary scenes are all well shot and edited, and the sound doesn't undermine the impact of the score too much. The orchestral playing is grand in every word, the rousing numbers have their punch and the more understated ones of haunting quality. The performances are just outstanding and in most cases probably definitive as well, Elaine Stritch and Barbara Cook(In Buddy's Eyes is guaranteed to leave anybody hearing or seeing it in awe) are particularly true to this, while Mandy Patinkin makes the role of Buddy his own and shines doing that and one of the greatest Sondheim interpreters George Hearn sings magnificently with great musicality and technique as well as with a communicative and authoritative presence. Carol Burnett and Phyllis Newman comes across really naturally also. All in all, delightful, very little to complain about apart from some of the performance segments being too short and too few. 9/10 Bethany Cox
  • Episode cast overview, first billed only:
    Andre Gregory Andre Gregory - Dimitri Weismann
    Stephen Sondheim Stephen Sondheim - Himself - Composer
    Arthur Rubin Arthur Rubin - Roscoe
    Barbara Cook Barbara Cook - Sally Durant Plummer
    George Hearn George Hearn - Benjamin Stone
    Herbert Ross Herbert Ross - Himself - Concert Director
    Jim Walton Jim Walton - Young Buddy
    Paul Gemignani Paul Gemignani - Himself - conducting Philharmonic
    Howard McGillin Howard McGillin - Young Ben
    Mandy Patinkin Mandy Patinkin - Buddy Plummer
    Lee Remick Lee Remick - Phyllis Rogers Stone
    Liz Callaway Liz Callaway - Young Sally
    Daisy Prince Daisy Prince - Young Phyllis
    Betty Comden Betty Comden - Emily Whitman
    Adolph Green Adolph Green - Theordore Whitman
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