Laurier Musical Theatre gives Laurier a taste of Broadway glitz
Three exclusive performances of Follies – put on by Laurier Musical Theatre on Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the Theatre Auditorium, offered a rare opportunity to see a huge cast of students reproducing Stephen Sondheim’s renowned Broadway musical.
The musical, involving 37 cast members in 21 performance numbers, a pit band of 14 and a production team of 18, was no doubt a challenging, yet ultimately rewarding exercise for producer Stephanie Reich and director Hilary Jones.
Set in an old Broadway theatre about to be replaced by a parking lot, the story involves the reunion of showgirls from the past production Weismann’s Follies.
At the offset, theatre owner Dimitri Weissman (played by Donnie Langley) welcomes his past employees and the audience to a night where they’ll “glamorize the old days, fall into a song or two and lie to [themselves] a little.”
The four leads, playing unhappily married couples Buddy and Sally Plummer and Ben and Phyllis Rogers Stone, were excellently cast. Particular stand-outs were Phyllis (Tori Ludwig) and Buddy (Jon Sieb).
Ludwig perfectly delivers the glamorous and cruel persona of an unsatisfied wife, while Sieb, with his high-pitched voice and high-energy humour, never breaks form, even in the most challenging scenes.
The entire performance, especially the second half, becomes a continuous talent show. Some cast members, such as Rebecca Ward who sings “One More Kiss” and Nyomi Puil with “I’m Still Here”, emerge from the supporting cast to deliver sensational performances. Others, such as Sieb when performing “Buddy’s Blues”, simply reaffirmed their talents.
However, within the extensive body of high quality performers, it was inevitable that those who were not at the same calibre were easily noticed.
As well, it was clear that some numbers – such as “Rain on the Roof” and “Bolero d’Amour” – slowed down the show. However, the low points were, thankfully, a rarity and quickly camouflaged by more impressive performances.
Undoubtedly, the most exciting numbers involved the majority of the cast.
In unison with great timing, they sang and danced their way around each other.
Outside of the musical numbers, timing was well maintained, with the performers taking the audience from conversation to conversation during the party settings.
The young selves of both “Weismann’s Girls” and their future husbands performing simultaneously with the present ones is an innovative technique that works well in highlighting the characters’ hopeful beginnings and current disappointments.
With insightful quotations such as “we don’t do anything anymore, we say,” the ironic conflict of an idealized past and a mediocre existence was the musical’s main theme.
Despite admitting the impossibility of complete satisfaction, the end does provide hope, since both couples are unable to abandon the ones they truly love.