Romantic Regrets Haunt Members of FOLLIES at Barley Sheaf

by Michael Tarringer

(L. to R.) Rebecca Young as Young Phyllis, Carey Rumpf as Young Ben, Sharon Nagy as Phyllis Rogers Stone, Payl Hayward as Benjamin Stone in FOLLIES now running at Barley Sheaf Players in Exton, PA. (Photo by Dave Richman).

While it would be nice to look back on our lives with no regrets, many of us have them. The decisions we make in life do have consequences and, as a result, people we care about get hurt. The Barley Sheaf Players’ production of FOLLIES reminds us of how haunting those regrets can be, as familiar faces evoke ghosts of old memories for two married couples.

Set in the early 1970s at a Broadway theater scheduled for demolition, FOLLIES (Book by James Goldman; Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim) tells the story of Phyllis and Benjamin Stone and Sally and Buddy Plummer. Thirty years ago, Phyllis and Sally danced together as showgirls in the “Weismann’s Follies,” a musical revue (based on the Ziegfeld Follies) which played in that theater in New York between the World Wars. Reuniting at a party on the eve of the demolition of the theatre, they realize the past still has a hold on them all.

Both marriages are in turmoil. Buddy (Al Ulozas), a traveling salesman, is having an affair with a girl on the road; Sally (Kristine Stott) is still as much in love with Ben (Paul Hayward) as she was years ago; and Ben is so self-absorbed that Phyllis (Sharon Nagy) feels abandoned. Ben, in the meantime, has insecurities of his own. As the characters move backward and forward in time, the audience is taken on an emotionally complex journey to discover whether the four will continue on with their lives or be torn apart like the theater of their youth.Director Rob DeRemigio has gathered together a talented, 26-member cast for this production, and the show has some wonderful moments, including a fun performance by Carlotta Campion of “I’m Still Here.” Ulozas’ rendition of “The God-Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me Blues” and Stott’s heartfelt “Losing My Mind” are also memorable. Other singing and dancing numbers fall a little flat at times, especially in duets where the voices and steps of some cast members are not evenly matched with their stronger counterparts.  The acting by the four main characters, however, remains consistent throughout, with Ulozas, Stott, Hayward and Nagy effectively capturing the essence and conflict within each of their respective roles.

The set and costumes are convincingly displayed, but the musical numbers are restricted by the limited stage space. The show may leave some audience members depressed at times, but kudos to Barley Sheaf for taking on this difficult material.

Book by James Goldman
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Rob DeRemigio
June 4 – 26, 2010
Barley Sheaf Players
810 N. Whitford Road
Exton, PA

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