Review: Follies. Good Companions Stage Society. Derby Theatre.

Running at Derby Theatre until Saturday 4th November, the Good Companions Stage Society’s sterling production of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies is a musical theatre triumph for all concerned.

           Musical theatre triumph for Good Companions…

Follies sits in the Sondheim canon alongside his Sunday In The Park With George, A Little Night Music and Assassins. It’s primary audience is adults with their own relationship history and those able to reflect dispassionately (or even passionately) on life’s human relationship joys and potential marital disappointments. It is a sophisticated show tribute to musical stage history in which Mr Sondheim himself is steeped. His Follies turns past and present love stories into exquisite musical/personal relationships weighed down by the twin emotional demons of neurosis and irony. The book is by James Goldman, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and Good Companions present Follies by special arrangement with Cameron Mackintosh.

The main Good Companions cast of older characters; Buddy Palmer (Steve Foster), Sally Durant Palmer (Hilary Leam) , Ben Stone (Davron Hicks) and Phyllis Rogers Stone (Yvonne Taylor) are all top notch powerfully confident performers and the audience visibly relax into their numbers sung with authority and passion. Expect to enjoy and be moved by ‘Losing My Mind’ ‘Too Many Mornings’ ‘One More Kiss’ ‘The Right Girl’ ‘In Buddy’s Eyes’ ‘Could I Leave You?’ and ‘I’m Still Here’. Dionne Reid is especially strong as Carlotta Campion with her sublime rendition of ‘I’m Still Here.’

Equally, the younger versions of the Palmers and the Stones, Young Buddy (Gary Heap), Young Sally (Harriet Basile) Young Ben (Martin Counter) and Young Phyllis (Kat Adey) win our love. There is great verve in their renditions of ‘ Waiting For The Girls Upstairs!’, ‘You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow’ and the ever hopeful ‘Love Will See Us Through.’ Despite their roles not being so progressed as their more mature stage selves the youthful actors give the younger roles a fair degree of emotional weight and believability on stage. All the younger Buddy, Sally, Ben and Phyllis cast are very likeable and capture the hopefulness and carefree existence of youth as well as each other’s folly.

The ‘Beautiful Girls’ are indeed as described and intoxicating to watch as they recreate memories of the Follies of yesteryear and the very key to the hopes and romances of the show itself. Whilst the on stage old Follies theatre may be crumbling, the walls of this production are solid as a rock. The large amateur ensemble add greatly to the professionalism of the piece.

The Good Companions exceptionally costumed Follies is finely directed by Phil Simcox and terrifically choreographed by Pauline Reader. The live orchestration is finely managed by Dave Adey and his orchestra.

Whilst an amateur theatre company cannot possibly match the current overall artistically exquisite National Theatre production of Follies, The Good Companions definitely show why their musical theatre talents win the NODA and Derby Eagles awards they do for top productions and their Follies is most certainly worth a visit at Derby Theatre this week.

Reviewer: Phil Lowe.

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