Showgirls have a short shelf life. With legs up to here, breasts out to there and rhinestones strategically everywhere, these gals flaunt their beautiful assets on stage. But what happens when the curtain falls? And how about when the building crumbles?
Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s FOLLIES. It’s 1971. Dimitri Weismann is closing his theatre forever. Before the demolition starts on the new parking lot, he wants to revisit his glamorous decade of Follies. He invites all the Weismann Girls back for a thirty-year reunion. And they accept. A television star. A widow of five...husbands. A perfume entrepreneur. A diplomat’s wife. A Phoenix housewife. Whatever their personal dramas are offstage, it can’t compete with the allure of returning to their glitzy onstage memories. Chicago Shakespeare Theater launches its 25th Anniversary Season with one spectacular diva-licious celebration.
Sondheim and Goldman collide the past with the present with this vaudevillian showcase. Showgirls, old and new, kick it to captivating heights. There are multiple surreal moments of the 1971 versions dancing and singing with their 1941 self. Sure, the young ensemble is pretty amazing but it’s the dames that transfix. It’s like “Dancing with the Stars.” It’s not the professional dancer that creates the stir. It’s the career resurrecting star that engages heart-felt admiration. You go, *old* girl! One of Chicago’s favorite divas, Hollis Resnick, says it best with a powerhouse rendition “I’m still here.” An exquisite Resnick starts out in refined control and builds to unforgettable I-am-woman-hear-me-sing. A hesitant Resnick joins the impressive Nancy Voigts led “Who’s That Woman.” It’s an energetic song and dance off with girls vs women. The established divas kick ass and own their names! A wonderfully irreverent Marilynn Bogetich sings “Broadway Baby” with old broad pride. Caroline O’Connor continually zings with dry wit and perfect pipes. Her comical and musical standout number is a poignant “Could I Leave You?” There are 40 actors and musicians making this extravaganza sparkle. But undoubtedly, this FOLLIES is ladies night!
Knowing how to dress to thrill, Costume Designer Virgil C. Johnson melds 1970’s cocktail sophistication with 1940’s burlesque titillation. Johnson clads the retirees in an array of distinct individual styles; Solange -voluptuous, Phyllis - cultivated, Sally -homespun, Hattie - comfortable. And my favorite dress, Carlotta - sexy wrapped in elegance. For the flashbacks to stage life, Johnson conforms most of the girls into identical white haired, white skinned, white satin, scantily-clad beauties. The exception is Jen Donohoo, a statuesque showgirl ghost. An elaborately costumed Donohoo haunts the stage with majestic pride.
FOLLIES is this Fall’s hot ticket. The limited engagement has already extended. If you miss it, it’s your own folly.
The other half of my showbiz act on Chicago Theatre Off Book, Joshua Volkers describes it with ‘dazzling and fun.’
Running Time: Two and a half hours includes an intermission
At Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand
Book by James Goldman
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Musical direction by Brad Haak
Directed by Gary Griffin
Tuesdays,Thursdays, Fridays at 7:30
Wednesdays at 1pm and 7:30pm
Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm
Sundays at 2pm
EXTENDED thru November 13th
Production photo courtesy of Liz Lauren