‘Follies’ comes to Chicago Shakespeare Theatre: my thoughts

Chris Jones reports that Gary Griffin will direct Stephen Sondheim’s Follies to kick off the 2011-12 season at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

This is Big News for me. Some thoughts before I head out the door …

I had two immediate reaction to this news: excitement and disappointment.

Let’s get the disappointment out of the way first. You see, I was hoping someone would take my dream production of Follies and turn it into a reality. But with this news, that’s not likely to happen any time soon. I’m sure Griffin’ll do a lovely job with it, but, to me, the show really needs to take place in a classic proscenium theatre. Follies is about an era gone by and a venue, like the Uptown Theatre, that’s facing rapid extinction. Sure, the show is also about long-held regrets and shattered dreams and all that, but it’s also specific to a time and a place. No amount of stagecraft will pull me away from the fact that we’re sitting in a modern, thrust stage auditorium.

A scene from Chi Shakes' 2003 production of "A Little Night Music" directed by Gary Griffin.

And now for the excitement: One of my favorite productions I’ve ever seen in Chicago was Chi Shakes’ A Little Night Music, produced in 2003 and directed by Griffin. Everything about it was perfection — from the tuxedoed musicians behind a scrim, to the crisp, all-white settings, to the inspired casting of Barbara Robertson as Desiree (where I first fell in love with her). Simple, stylish, unexpected, sophisticated. So, I hope Griffin brings the same magic to Follies as he brought to Night Music.

This news also begs the question about casting, as this show really offers a chance to showcase our amazing local musical theatre talent. Perhaps Griffin will look to the recent concert at the Humanities Festival for inspiration, with Hollis Resnik as Sally?

We shall see!

13 thoughts on “‘Follies’ comes to Chicago Shakespeare Theatre: my thoughts

  1. Wow, I can’t wait. This has been on my Soundheim wishlist of shows to see for some time now. Did they mention any dates for it yet?

    1. Hey, Jeremy. Thanks for reading. Jones mentions in his announcement that the show is scheduled to run Oct. 4 through Nov. 6., 2011.

      1. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s an error, though. Chicago Shakes shows tend to run at least 2 months, and a title like Follies is likely to have a LOT of interest around it. I bet we’ll either see a correction or an extension before long.

  2. While Chicago Shakes’ space is still new and shiny, it doesn’t need to be a thrust: I have seen two productions there which filled the thrust part of the stage with seats, and staged it such that even the sideways-facing seats got an excellent view (one of them staged by Griffin). Who knows what they’ll do with the space this time, but they certainly aren’t tied to their usual setup.

    1. I was wondering if they had the ability to do that, Zev, as I’ve never seen the space arranged that way. But, still, it’s a new and shiny (and modular) space — not really my first pick for a “Follies” venue. But a venue does not a show make, and I’m looking forward to see what Griffin and Co. have in store!

      1. Oh, I definitely agree that there’s nothing that can make the CHicago Shakes space look like anything in the time zone as ravaged or ancient. (Though I bet that some decoration/distressing of the house will be done.) But at the very least it’s good to know they aren’t tied to any particular layout.

        Actually, I’d love to see Follies in the round configuration they used for Private Lives.

    1. Hollis WOULD be a good Phyllis. She’s very good at playing grand, brittle and caustic. However, she also made an appealing Sally at the Humanities Festival — much to my surprise.

      That said, Griffin seems to like casting New York talent, so I’m not holding my breath.

    1. Well, I hope whatever she’s doing, she’s working and happy, and people are enjoying her. Though, I was not in love with that production of Candide …

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