Musical ‘Follies’ entertains


Contributing Reporter

“Follies,” a musical adapted from a James Goldman book with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, played to a packed house Sunday, March 29 at Varner Studio Theatre.

The musical set around New York in the late 1950s, focuses on relational flaws between the four major characters: Phyllis and Benjamin Stone, played by Katie Hardy and Joey Bybee, and Sally and Buddy Plummer, played by Alexandra Zorn and Alex Pedica.

The cast consisted of about 30 Oakland University students.

“I never anticipated doing ‘Follies’ for a college cast,” said director Michael Gillespie. “There are a lot of elderly and middle-aged people in it.”

The play brought a different atmosphere to theatre. The doors opened a half hour before curtain, and audience members could watch four cast members putting on makeup on stage.

“This is to show the audience that there is no illusion,” Gillespie said.

The musical opened with a reunion after the club Follies has been shut down for about 20 years. Follies once was a place for showgirls, booze and good times. But now it’s only fit for a reunion.

The story centers on Sally Plummer’s love for Benjamin Stone. Benjamin, who has never felt love before, is married to Phyllis Stone. While most of the main characters have extramarital relations, Sally is trapped between her love for Benjamin and her obligations as a wife.

“My character has been married for 30 years. His wife has never really loved him. He does go astray but he truly does love Sally,” Pedica said. “This show was somewhat difficult because it is very deep. I was always finding more about the character every show.”

During the second half of the musical, the setting changed from Follies to Loveland, a fictitious land where true feelings are revealed. While there were mere glimpses into the past in the first act, the four main roles confronted their past selves through a medley of songs.

“I think vocally, that was our best performance,” Zorn said after Sunday’s performance. “Sally has a lot of emotional issues but with this performance, I felt really connected to her.”

The music was challenging for some.

“Sondheim is well known in musical theatre and it is very hard to follow. We had to know the music backwards and forwards,” Zorn said. “The band is behind us, which presented another obstacle.”

Some audience members were entertained by the play.

“My favorite number was the tango number toward the middle of play with no singing but just dance,” said Joseph Leang, a freshman undecided major.

“My favorite part was the whole Follies bit, the four dance numbers in a row,” said Andrew Kalinowski, a sophomore Chinese history major. “I thought it showed the thoughts of the actors coming out in a very artistic way.”

“Follies” is playing April 1-4 at 8 p.m. and from April 4-5 at 2 p.m. in Varner Studio Theatre. Tickets are $8 for students and $16 for the public, and can be bought in Varner Box Office.