C’mon, admit it—you just love over-the-top musical extravaganzas. There are few people—perhaps no one—who do them better than that giant of the genre, Stephen Sondheim, and Follies has it all.
First staged in 1971 on Broadway, it tells the story of the reunion of a chorus line of Weismann’s follies showgirls at a crumbling Broadway theater that’s due for demolition. It was here that they used to perform, decades before, in shows of jaw-dropping spectacle. A super-talented cast directed by award-winning Dominic Cooke is led by the brilliant Imelda Staunton as Sally Plummer, who is joined by Janie Dee and Tracie Bennett as three of the now middle-aged Follies girls. They are shadowed throughout the production by their younger, ostrich-plumed, crystal-drenched selves, offering a poignant contrast of youthful beauty and fading looks.
As they revive old memories of their dazzling careers, it presents an irresistible opportunity to shower the stage with crystalline glamour. This is certainly not the first time—hits such as Evita, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and Dreamgirls, among many others, have enjoyed Swarovski’s commitment to the world entertainment. This time, for the company’s debut at London’s National Theatre, renowned costume designer Vicki Mortimer incorporated 600,000 crystals into her beautifully crafted designs: 160 costumes, including 62 fabulously feathered headdresses and 129 pairs of tap shoes, sparkle under the stage lights in the theater’s most extravagant production yet. “The dazzlingly kaleidoscopic effect brilliantly evokes the glamour of Dietrich-like heroines,” she explained, “while the sparkle and light play allow the showgirls to shimmer with a sort of ghostly romance.” Make sure you catch it before the curtain comes down on January 3, 2018—it really is the experience of a lifetime.
Follies is at the National Theatre, London, until January 3. The performance on November 16 will be broadcast live to 7,000 cinemas worldwide as part of NT Live. To find out more, go to www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/follies