The concert of Follies
that became the Follies in Concert album
were an important project, but it falls short for me in being in any way a definitive reading of the score - which is partly what it was aiming to be. The rehearsal process is certainly the most interesting part of the broadcast version. Sondheim, as usual, proves to be endlessly insightful about his work and it is super to see the company members come to terms with the material, to watch their preparation process and see how the performers differ from each other in their approach to the material.
I don't really mind that one doesn't get to see the whole concert: firstly, the performances are preserved on the CD set (which, more importantly, includes the Stavisky
film score) and, secondly, the performances often leave something to be desired. Barbara Cook turns in a performance that is more Barbara Cook than it is Sally, interpreted rather than characterised, which is fine considering that this is a concert - but she performs the same material far better elsewhere. Mandy Patinkin substitutes energy for depth; his performance is about himself, not Buddy. Liliane Montevecchi is a complete disaster.
On the other hand, there are things that work really well: George Hearn's "Live, Laugh, Love" leading into the climactic sequence is handled well as Lee Remick's Phyllis. Elaine Stritch delivers a funny and touching "Broadway Baby" and Betty Comden and Adolph Green's "Rain on the Roof" is just sweet and lovely. There's also Carol Burnett's reading of "I'm Still Here", which I'm not sure would work in the context of a full production, but certainly works in the concert setting.
But ultimately all exist in the shadow of the original Broadway cast. It's such a pity that the OBC recording
was so poorly done; to have that cast performing the numbers they created and owned in full would have been ideal. This is a 'second best' and I suppose I shouldn't be as hard on it as I am simply for that reason, but that's what it will always be for me. Follies
, which is one of the greatest Broadway musicals in the musical theatre canon, has never been as good as it was during its initial run with its original cast.