Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Janie Dee. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Janie Dee. Sort by date Show all posts

Friday, 8 September 2017

Follies, National Theatre | Review

Olivier Theatre, National Theatre
Reviewed on Thursday 7th September 2017 by Olivia Mitchell 

It's been 30 years since a fully staged production of Follies has been seen on a London stage so there's been a huge buzz surrounding the current production at the National Theatre, which boasts a stellar cast.  The production is largely sold out but don't fret if you didn't manage to snap up tickets as it is set to be broadcast to cinemas through NT Live on November 16th.

Mr Weismann's iconic theatre is closing so to commemorate he invites all his old Follies to dance and reminisce about their time in the company. Being back in the places of their youth, many characters start being pulled back to the past and we watch as the past and present become intwined. Childhood best friends with a past, Sally and Phyllis and their husbands Buddy and Ben reopen a chapter of their lives which they all thought closed.  Both couples are experiencing problems in their marriages and despite time having passed, they can't help but relive old feelings. 

Follies was originally written as a straight-through piece with no interval; whilst some productions have included intervals, the National Theatre's doesn't. Speaking to others about the show it seemed that people were wary of having to sit for that long without a break and whilst it is the same as watching a film, I suppose there's more freedom and less embarrassment to have a loo break during a film. This needn't be a worry at all though as the show flows wonderfully and really builds up momentum throughout, meaning that stepping out doesn't cross your mind as the show flies by.

The entire cast are absolutely stellar, keeping up the energy from the get go to the end. I particularly enjoy Di Botcher's rendition of 'Broadway Baby' which is completely hilarious and gorgeously sung and Tracie Bennett's 'I'm Still Here' which is gritty and powerful. Her nuanced performance is one of the best I've ever seen on stage. The younger selves of the two main ladies, played by Zizi Strallen and Alex Young are extremely well performed. The mirroring of the young and old girls is spectacular and extremely moving. Alex's transition from the giddy girl into the obsessed girl is striking.

This obsession continues with the adult Sally, played by the ever brilliant, Imelda Staunton. Sally has not really changed throughout the years and comes onto the stage just as giddy as a child when we first see her. Her fragility begins to show little by little, coming to a head in her stunning rendition of the classic, 'Losing My Mind'. Sally's partner in crime, Phyllis is played by the equally brilliant, Janie Dee who is strong and sassy from start to end. 

Dominic Cooke's direction creates a flow of movement and an ease throughout which is joyful to watch. Bill Dreamer's choreography works hand in hand with is and showcases the best of the Follies era. Along with the National's revolve, the choreography swims along and is faultless. A particular stand-out moment is the tap number 'Who's That Woman?'... I'm a sucker for tap and this was pulled off perfectly as the older Follies girls join their younger selves to create a thing of beauty.

Vicki Mortimer's set design cleverly shows hints of the former glory of the grand Weismann theatre as it crumbles in current day. The costumes are stunning not only with the gorgeous glitz and glam of the Follies but with how well they show off the character of each individual lady in the current day.

Overall this is an absolutely wonderful production which has everything you could wish for in a musical. There's glitz, glam, grit and emotion, which along with a perfect cast create an absolutely wonderful production of Sondheim's classic musical. 

Follies runs at the National Theatre until January 3rd. 

Friday, 22 February 2019

Follies, National Theatre | Review

National Theatre, Olivier Theatre
Reviewed on Thursday 21st February 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 

After its sold out run in 2017, Follies is back in true glamourous style as it follows a group of dancers reminiscing and reliving their youth. Mr Weismann's iconic theatre is being turned into a car park, so he's invited his past Follies dancers back to say one last farewell to the space. The walls of the theatre bring back memories and as we see childhood friends Phyllis and Sally reopen chapters they thought were closed, we are taken on a journey where past and present collide.

Dominic Cooke has once again directed a visceral and intense production. At 2 hours 15 minutes with no interval, the piece steadily flows and retains ferocity throughout. Vicki Mortimer's set and costumes are a spectacle in themselves; the crumbling theatre is periodically brought back to life by a subtle change and cleverly used to signify mental changes and journeys as well as the physical flashbacks. The costumes are elaborate and unique to each girl, with the delicate smatterings of jewels and sparkles, shining and flowing as they move around the stage.

Bill Dreamer's choreography brings the best of the Follies era to life  as the girls move around the stage gracefully, as if every movement is strategically planned for attention. Of course, the stand out choreographic moment is 'Who's That Woman' where the young and old combine to create a magical tap routine. Also, particularly striking is the way the young and old follies dancers, reflect themselves across the stage.

In terms of cast, you can't get much better than this one. Tracie Bennett's 'I'm Still Here' is a chill inducing, nuanced filled performance; whilst,  Claire Moore is hilarious throughout, no more so than in her gloriously sung, 'Broadway Baby'. Fellow The Girls alum, Joanna Riding is utterly outstanding as Sally. The transition from excitable girl, to fragile woman is perfectly performed, with 'Losing My Mind' providing a complete masterclass is acting through song and maintaining vocal technique even in moments of peak emotional earnestness. This intensity is mirrored by Gemma Sutton as Young Sally who is perfectly cast, alongside Christine Tucker as Young Phyllis, to show how we change, and how we remain the same.

Janie Dee is striking as Phyllis, whilst husbands, Buddy and Ben have great characterisation and development thanks to Peter Forbes and Alexander Hanson.

Whilst Follies is an outstanding piece of theatre, personally I feel a little far removed from the story; most likely because I lack the life experiences to relate on an emotional level. However, there's not denying that this is one of the most glitzy shows around, with one of Sondheim's finest scores and it's worth a visit to see how theatre should be done. Regardless of being able to relate, this is a marvellous piece of theatre. 

photo credit: Johann Persson