“Follies” is definitely a must-see show, mostly because it is rarely produced on the regional theater stage. It’s a musical of grand proportions due to its two distinct casts of characters.

The first cast lives in the present: former showgirls and men who were stars of Weismann’s Follies, a Ziegfeld Follies look-alike in the past. The time is 1971 and the theater where they played is hosting a reunion before it is torn down to make way for a parking lot.

The second cast consists of the ghosts of those characters. All the men and women have younger selves who sometimes appear alongside them in of the production numbers or sometimes perform by themselves in original Follies numbers.

The key stories are in the lives of Sally (Sandy Binion) who was in love with Ben (Mark Jacoby) 30 years ago. But Ben inexplicably proposed to her friend Phyllis (Beth Glover), leaving Sally to wed Ben’s friend Buddy (John-Charles Kelly). They all meet again at the reunion feigning a happiness that masks decades of misery in their relationships.

“Follies” survives not because it has a great story line, but because it has great musical numbers that showcase extraordinary talent.

Singing well, plus acting

The four principals get the show’s most dramatic numbers. Ben (Jacoby) sings “The Road You Didn’t Take,” while Sally (Binion) tries to relive happiness in her rendition of “In Buddy’s Eyes.” Ben and Sally momentarily echo their lifetime of regrets in “Too Many Mornings,” while Buddy (Kelly) starts to examine his unsatisfactory relationship with “The Right Girl.” Phyllis (Glover) shows her contempt for the philandering Ben with a great interpretation of “Could I Leave You?” This is a veteran foursome strong in vocals and acting ability.

The nostalgic part of the show brings together some stage veterans of Maine State Music Theatre to portray the stage veterans of the Follies. Ann Dawson is powerful in the number “Broadway Baby” while Maine State Music legend Karen K. Edissi (Many of us remember her as K.K. Preece.) deserved her applause in the show favorite “I’m Still Here.” Joyce A. Presutti led the company of present and past ladies in a super production number, “Who’s That Woman?” while Natalie Mosco portrays a French chanteuse in “Ah, Paris!” Ruth Vogel sings an operatic duet with her younger self (Amy Justman), receiving respectful applause for her number and her place in Maine State Music’s history. (Vogel was in the original company, from 1959 to 1969).

Dance of love

A highlight of the evening is a dance number by Maine State Music alumni Henry D’Alessandris and Ginger Prince who dance alongside their younger characters (George Nieves and Robyn Hurder) in “Bolero d’Amour.” It’s a stunning number that shows that age might diminish the high lifts and deep bends, but it doesn’t diminish the artistic elegance of a couple of outstanding troupers.

Charles S. Kading’s set transforms the Pickard Theater stage into a convincing old theater’s backstage. Costumes by Susan E. Picinich were typically 1970s for the reunion’s time period and then wonderfully elegant for the original Follies’ numbers.

Overall direction by Charles Abbott shows a solid view of what makes theater grand from a man who knows, loves and respects the musical theater stage.

Performances run Tuesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. with a rotation of matinees on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday or Sunday depending on the performance week. Tickets can be purchased from the box office at 725-8769. Details also are available on www.msmt.org.

Dan Marois and his wife, Denise, run Main Street Entertainment & Mystery for Hire. He can be reached at [email protected] or at www.mysteryforhire.com.

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