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2018 Follies Cast Recording now available at the NT Bookshop

Follies

Following the final performance of Follies in the Olivier on 11 May, the National Theatre announces the CD release of Stephen Sondheim’s legendary musical Follies – 2018 National Theatre Cast Recording this Friday, 17 May.

Following its 2018 Olivier Award wins for Best Musical Revival and Best Costume Design and a sold out run at the National Theatre, this critically acclaimed production of Follies releases its much-anticipated London Cast Recording. Including musical hits such as I’m Still HereBroadway Baby and Losing My Mind.

Follies 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.

Director of Follies and Associate of the National Theatre Dominic Cooke said:

“Directing Follies has been a privilege. It is a heart-breaking, universal piece and the National Theatre committed epic resources to realise it. The original company gave detailed, powerful performances and I’m delighted that we managed to record them for listeners to appreciate Stephen Sondheim’s peerless score, just as I was working with an equally brilliant cast on the Olivier revival.”

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 – 2018 National Theatre Cast Recording is also available across digital download and streaming accounts now. Download and streaming link can be found HERE.

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Bill Deamer: ‘We are not doing a carbon copy; that was that production of Follies and this is a new production of Follies.’

Follies

Choreographer Bill Deamer enters the room. ‘Hello!’ he says cheerily.

Bill Deamer is one of Britain’s leading song and dance men for theatre, film and TV. Last year he bagged himself an Olivier nomination for Best Theatre Choreographer for Follies

Now Dominic Cooke’s production of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s masterpiece, is back at the National Theatre. We are talking in the interview room backstage at the National Theatre and Deamer has just been giving notes to the cast of Follies. ‘We now have to let them take the show and run with it,’ he says.

The 2019 Follies Company with Bill Deamer

The 2019 Follies Company with Bill Deamer

It’s tricky, Deamer explains, to reimagine a critically acclaimed musical for the Olivier stage with new cast members in just over a month, yet they have cleared that obstacle with breath-taking ease. ‘We’ve only had four weeks rehearsal whereas we had 9 originally. What you can’t do when you recast is assume the energy is going to be the same.’

It’s not only the cast that has changed since the 2017 production, however. The ensemble brings glorious new touches to the big number choreography; particularly the Mirror Mirror number, in which Dawn Hope leads the cast through a show-stopping musical theatre extravaganza.

FOLLIES 2.0

FOLLIES 2.0

Rehearsals must have been full-on? ‘To learn and create and become the Follies company in four weeks was a tall order, Deamer says. ‘The actors are different, we are not doing a carbon copy; that was that production of Follies and this is a new production of Follies. We’ve looked at certain concepts and developed them even more. The ghosts and how they are in contact with and interact with their older selves have all been developed.’

‘There’s a moment at the beginning of the show, during the Overture and all of a sudden the ghosts realise that they are back and they all gesture to the front,’ he continues. ‘There’s so much power in it, it gives me Gooseflesh talking about it.’

During a recent preview an audience member took a photograph of Joanna Riding performing as her voice cracked during the last lines of Losing My Mind. Follies’ Associate Director, Josh Seymour tweeted his dismay.

He winces when I mention it. ‘Good job Imelda wasn’t there!’ he says. ‘I can’t believe that during one of the most sensitive parts of the show somebody actually pulls a camera out to take a photograph – with a flash on. It’s absurd. Why do people do it? It’s so rude – it is disrespectful to the actors and it disrespectful to the audience.’

Should they have been ejected? ‘Yes.’ Deamer says bemused.

Were they? ‘No. It was such a subtle part of the show it would have disturbed things more to chuck them out,’ he says.

‘I think we all talk about audience etiquette and audience behaviour but it is not made clear enough – when you are recording for TV you hand your phones in. Maybe that is the way to go? I just don’t know.’

We discuss the mythical Follies 2018 Cast Recording that has just finally been released. ‘I’ve heard all of the various productions of Follies that have been recorded and they all have their merits. I think the quality of all of the vocals are quite extraordinary – Stephen Sondheim’s music and Jonathan Tunick’s arrangement just come to life.’

Alexander Hanson and Joanna Riding credit: Johan-Persson

Alexander Hanson and Joanna Riding credit: Johan-Persson

Does he have a favourite? ‘I have to say that Too Many Mornings breaks my heart; the woodwind, the obo – that wonderful sound. There is something in it that just moves me completely. Hearing Phillip (Quast) and Imelda (Staunton) sing it together is quite extraordinary,’ Deamer says.

The ghosts of those former cast certainly loom over the return of Follies; there are some big tap-shoes to fill. Now though, replacing Staunton as Sally is Joanna Riding and Alexander Hanson takes on the role of Ben. ‘Joanna and Alex are so completely different from their predecessors,’ Deamer says.

‘Jo is so different from Imelda – you couldn’t say that one is better than another; they are completely different. Alex brings such pathos to Ben. I have my amazing memories of working with Imelda and Phillip and now I have my memories of working with Jo and Alex.’

Dawn Hope Stella and the company National Theatre credit: Johan Persson

Dawn Hope Stella and the company National Theatre credit: Johan Persson

‘They are quite wonderful because Dominic and I have worked hard with them and it is all based as it was originally: the director, the designer, the choreographer and the music, we all work as one. So, we had that strength in the rehearsal room.’

Deamer has been a consistently working choreographer for over twenty-five years. His first Olivier nomination was for the critically acclaimed production of The Boy Friend that opened at Regents Park Open Air Theatre in 2006. He has beavered away across theatre, film and television winning an Olivier Award as Best Choreographer in 2013 for Top Hat, as a musical theatre and Charleston specialist for Strictly Come Dancing.

Bill Deamer and Carl Woodward

Bill Deamer and Carl Woodward

He never stops.

The last thing Deamer wants is to be thought of as, he stresses, a one-style  choreographer. ‘People assume I just do the old-fashioned stuff- which drives me insane. Actually, it is not old fashioned, it is classic. I’ve got Saturday Night Fever out on tour at the moment. I have a production of Evita that’s toured for 11 years around Europe out on the road.’

‘I’m a fully trained dancer and a musical theatre choreographer,’ he shrugs. ‘I trained in classical dance and ballet and jazz and indeed if anyone knows my work on TV with Strictly. For me, pigeonholing any artist is just nonsense.’

Dominic Cooke (Director) and Bill Deamer (Choreographer) in rehearsal for Follies at

Dominic Cooke (Director) and Bill Deamer (Choreographer) in rehearsal for Follies 

What advice does he have for aspiring choreographers? ‘The first thing that I say to any performer is: learn your craft. Get your technique – without that you will not survive. Too many dancers are jack of all trades and master of none and quite simply, it isn’t going to work.’

Our time has come to an end and it’s time for Bill to go.

‘I’m very luck to do what I do – I have worked for it and I’ve learnt my trade. It is wonderful to work with such brilliantly diverse people and create theatre – it feels like such a privilege to be able to work on the various projects that I do; when it doesn’t, I won’t do it,’ he concludes. The words are spoken without a hint of mawkishness, only sincerity. It is all he knows.

Follies is at the Oliver, London until 11 May.

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FOLLIES IS ON FU*KING ITUNES

Follies

As you well know, the National Theatre executed a surprise, everyone-get-out-of-bed-right-now, fucking-hell-what’s-happening-are-we-all-dead-and-is-this-what-the-afterlife-feels-like album release.

Stephen Sondheim’s FOLLIES – 2018 National Theatre Cast Recording is here.

It’s all very exciting.

My thanks for your thoughts at this time and for those who contributed to the trolling of our Royal National Theatre.

But how did I feel at the end of this emotional 12 month dual carriageway?

One word: Overjoyed.

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

Anyway, 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

CD pre-orders will be available ‘soon’ let’s hope it isn’t another year.

Any questions? No? Good. You can buy FOLLIES on Itunes  or stream it right now

Warner Classics and National Theatre Present Follies 2018 National Theatre cast recording

Follies Cast Recording

WARNER CLASSICS and the NATIONAL THEATRE announced the digital download and streaming release of Stephen Sondheim’s legendary musical FOLLIES – 2018 National Theatre Cast Recording this Friday, January 18th.

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 HereBroadway 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.

Director of FOLLIES and Associate of the National Theatre Dominic Cooke said: “Directing FOLLIES has been a privilege. It is a heart-breaking, universal piece and the National Theatre committed epic resources to realise it. The original company gave detailed, powerful performances and I’m delighted that we managed to record them for listeners to appreciate Stephen Sondheim’s peerless score, just as I’m working with an equally brilliant cast on the Olivier revival opening next month.”

FOLLIES – 2018 National Theatre Cast Recording was recorded at RAK Studios in London with world-renowned producer Nigel Wright, conducted by Olivier NomineeNigel 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 – 2018 National Theatre Cast Recording is available across digital download and streaming accounts now. Download and streaming link can be found HERE. CD pre-orders will be available soon.

“I love this show’s beautiful reflection on the lives of these characters and the choices they made.  I’m thrilled we were able to capture this original National Theatre cast last year, and I look forward to fans of Stephen Sondheim, the show and the cast enjoying this recording for many years to come.” stated Kevin Gore, President of Arts Music for Warner Music Group.

FOLLIES returns to the National Theatre with previews from 12 February 2019, with many of the original cast including Tracie BennettJanie Dee and Peter Forbesreturning 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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Top Shows of 2017 (According to me)

Theatre’s great isn’t it? Well not all of it – some of it is shit. 

Anyway, 2017 has been a terrific year for theatre – through which I have tried to do what most of the theatre media forgot to do – salute theatre’s good bits, even if doing so required shining a light on the bad bits… 

As 2018 rolls around, I’ve published my annual list of half-decent stuff from the last twelve months below.

  1. Angels in America – National Theatre, London.

Subtitled “a gay fantasia on national themes”, over two extensive plays – separately titled Millennium Approaches and Perestroika – lasting a combined total of eight hours. The cast was led by the seriously good Andrew Garfield, Russell Tovey, Denise Gough and Nathan Lane. The revelatory performance and superb focal point was Garfield’s Prior Walter. 

2.-Andrew-Garfield-Prior-Walter-in-AngelsInAmerica-Perestroika-photo-by-Helen-Maybanks[1].jpg

Andrew Garfield in Angels in America 

Everything was exquisite, Marianne Elliott’s direction completely breathtaking, the overall vision both flawlessly plotted and magnificently executed. And it’s the only show on this list without a single dud moment. The National’s timely revival of Tony Kushner’s play was 100% superb.

Angels in America heads to Broadway from February 2018, so well done everyone. 

  1. Follies – National Theatre, London. 

James Goldman and Stephen Sondheim’s 1971 musical was close to perfection. It felt like a genuinely special theatre experience, and when was the last time you felt like that about a thing?

Director Dominic Cooke delivered a really incredible, dramatic happy-sad musical of epic proportions. Every performance was sublime – from Tracie Bennet’s scene-stealing Carlotta to Janie Dee’s dynamic Phyillis.

Follies-Olivier-NT-948[1]

Follies

No other musical in 2017 tried quite this hard to be amazing, and no other musical production succeeded in as many ways.

It is fair to say that this is one of the greatest musicals I’ve ever seen. Bill Deamer’s choreography blurred real life and performance to spectacular effect enveloping us in in an emotional no man’s land, unsure where artifice began.

Follies allowed us to see and feel Sondheim’s classic in exhilarating new ways.

Glorious, glorious, glorious.

3. An American In Paris – Dominion Theatre, London. 

Christopher Wheeldon’s stage adaptation of the 1951 film was simply wonderful.

In its best moments, An American in Paris pulled off the trick of homaging multiple sources while looking and sounding like nothing else; a musical at its sophisticated and unhurried best.

George and Ira Gershwin’s irresistible songs coupled with beautiful dance was largely enhanced by Bob Crowley’s stunning design.

The company was fortunate to be led by the insanely talented New York City Ballet dancer Robbie Fairchild and Royal Ballet’s Leanne Cope; both sang, acted and danced sensationally. Remarkable stuff. 

N.B. Ashley Day took over from Fairchild as Jerry Mulligan in July and was quite splendid. So well done to Ashley.

4. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf – Harold Pinter Theatre, London

A decadent, pensive and astute production.

It says something about the high standard of theatre in Britain that Imelda Staunton – nominated for 2017’s Evening Standard Awards in the Best Actress category for her portrayal as Martha, didn’t win. Staunton was a razor-sharp maniac in this role and demonstrated yet again to be one of our finest & fiercest Stage performers.

Director James Macdonald matched a breathtaking Staunton with a tremendous Conleth Hill and cut straight to the plays dark, throbbing heart.

Luke Treadaway and Imogen Poots held their own too, in this disturbing portrait of marital relationships gone wrong.

Edward Albee’s savage play remains, of course, a completely chilling, classic masterpiece.

  1. An Octoroon – Orange Tree, Richmond. 

As a theatre fan it’s hard to beat the feeling of finding out about a show early on and seeing something special. It’s hard to beat the feeling of seeing it in tiny, little theatres before they’re at the National Theatre, then championing it to anyone who’ll listen. And it’s hard to beat the sensation of seeing that play take a bold and brilliant step forward and being able to say to yourself: I was there.

octoroon_2[1].jpg

Ken Nwoso in An Octoroon 

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins reworking of a slave drama was both new and old; an adaptation of a 19th-century melodrama and a biting modern critique of it.

Directed with radical aplomb by Ned Bennett, it was Ken Nwoso’s energetic performance, however, that branded itself on the mind. 

A masterclass in smart theatre and a first-rate cast made this unforgettable viewing.

‘FYI’ An Octoroon will transfer to the National Theatre in June 2018. Don’t miss. 

Note:

1. Have I missed anything? Let me know E: mrcarlwoodward@gmail.com – I’ll publish some of the best suggestions.

2. I feel a bit bad about ‘The Ferryman’ not being on the list – it probably should have been. OH WELL.)

 

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Five Things You Should Know About Follies

IMG_4060.JPG

1.    Let’s cut to the chase: Follies contains some of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen in a musical.

It features Stephen Sondheim veterans Philip Quast, Imelda Staunton and Janie Dee. Most incredible of all, the way this sparkly ensemble revisit their former lives from 30 years ago to when they first met while working as Follies dancers. The ghosts of the past send shivers up your spine. Also, Tracie Bennett in particular steals the show on a few occasions in a hall of mirrors for all shades of misery

2.    With a near 30-year history and a world-class reputation, Sondheim shows are no strangers to the National Theatre (Judi Dench appeared in ‘A Little Night Music’ in the Olivier, 1995 and Philip Quast in ‘Sunday in the Park With George’ in the Lyttelton Theatre, 1990 etc, etc and so on).

It’s hard to avoid the fact that most of Follies’ action takes place on a stage revolve resembling a merry-go-round in West Side Story. The beauty of this show lies in the precision that draws the multi-layered elements together.

3.    There are incredibly few directors who could carry off at least three quarters of this show. Dominic Cooke’s production for the National Theatre has kept the songs in the faithful style – the orchestra are sublime – but when Imelda delivers a refreshingly devastating low-key version of ‘Losing My Mind’, it’s the night’s highlight. A haunting exploration of character.

This is an inventively staged production with a cast and the arrangements are of a phenomenally high standard. As well as being expertly written the majority of these songs are also skilfully structured and only serve to reaffirm Sondheim’s Godlike genius.

 

4.    The choreography itself is beautiful, reflecting the sorrow, torment and human resilience in both the music and the performances. Everything slots perfectly into place in this magnificent evocation of showbiz. Sweeping across the stage are buckets of Swarovski crystals, sashes, sequined frocks and outfits that reel you in from start to finish.

This is the first time Dominic Cooke has directed a musical. Luckily, there’s a clarity of vision that’s practically unrivalled in the current musical theatre scene. Follies feels effortlessly enchanting.

5.    Vicky Mortimer’s show-making set and costume design uses a crumbling theatre on a revolving set to remind us how the characters’ lives are confined and ravaged by theatre; Bill Dreamer’s vivid choreography, deserves a mention again, his work with ‘Loveland’ pays hymn to the showbiz past; and the orchestra has a glorious, brassy ring.

The production’s centrepiece – to these eyes, anyway – is ‘I’m Still Here’, a track for which Apple Music single song repeat function could well have been invented. A dazzle to watch. 

But the show is not perfect and I can see people’s concerns about Imelda’s suitability as a ‘Showgirl’ or that her vocals may be underpowered. They are missing the point; these things add to the charm of the production. The no interval thing is a bit crap….

Nevertheless, nothing is left to chance here, folks.

I make that a considered, authoritative and concrete 9/10. Also: Looks like my work here is done. Time to go to the pub.

Follies runs in the Olivier Theatre at the National until 3 January.

‘FYI’ Follies will be broadcast by NT Live to cinemas in the UK and internationally on Thursday 16 November.