““Follies” – Echoes of the Past, to Be in this Pocket Sondheim by Montclair Operetta Club by Sherri Rase When was the last time you saw classic Sondheim in a classic space? For me it was Saturday night, April 5 at the Van Fossan Theatre courtesy by the Montclair Operetta Club (MOC). MOC was founded in 1925, incorporated in 1934 and is celebrating its 84th season. The Van Fossan Theatre is a 300-seat intimate venue in a late 19th century desanctified brownstone church. There is little room to queue up if you get there early…but being a small house, there’s not a bad seat in it. This run, continuing through April 13, is General Admission so to sit close to “give good audience”. The stage itself is only 20x20 feet and there is no curtain as the stage is a peninsula. The front row is mere feet from the action and the whole experience is very fresh and immediate. The MOC fields an incredible array of talent. “Follies” requires a bevy of strong voices and non-derivative characters and this production delivers! Of course MOC is vocally oriented - Montclair OPERETTA Club, so they have set the bar high. Directed and choreographed by Sam Scalamoni, it is an amazing compact jewel – a bit like a scene in a snow globe. The beauty of the space and this performance is that we are up close and personal in a way that is not possible in most theatres. “Follies” has always been a unique work, always changing. There are truly no small parts, each role is somehow featured. Especially enjoyable for me was Joe Vierno’s work as Buddy. Mr. Vierno really sold the salesman, a product of his time. Personality and energy in abundance, Buddy’s humanity really came through in Vierno’s portrayal. Especially in the Loveland section, Buddy’s folly, we feel his love for his wife, and his search for connection with her distant heart. Cheryl Woertz’ as Sally is a complete contrast to Buddys – Sally’s folly has none of his frenetic energy. In fact the performance of “Losing My Mind” perfectly describes the lethargy of depression and the sine waves that sometimes barely break the surface of Sally’s psyche. Yin and Yang to one another, can Buddy and Sally ever come together again? Sally’s build to passionate angst at the end is a guide. This staging featured “The Story of Lucy and Jessie” as Phyllis’ folly. Linda McConoughey is luminous in the role of Phyllis Rogers Stone. The choreography is iconic and simply well done. Phyllis’ “Could I Leave You” immediately prior to the Loveland sequence was ripe with venom and in a matter of minutes, her relationship with her husband and with someone she thought of as a dear friend become crystal-sharp and crystal-clear. Ben’s folly is the crash of where a man thinks he is and where he actually is, what used to be called “mid-life crisis” back in the day of the three martini lunch. Paul Salvatoriello’s Ben crumbles like a sand castle – not immediately, but the sharp-eared can hear the descent of man and the final ascent of the high tide of emotion that washes his cherished illusions into the gutters outside the Weismann theatre. A truly enjoyable vocal and dance number was “Who’s That Woman” with Stella (Janice Lynn) tapping her troubles away. I especially like the Busby Berkeley-esque way the tapping chorines cluster around a gorgeous Garland-sounding Stella with a beautiful kaleidoscopically tight formation of movement. Remember, there are several other people on that small stage plus Stella plus the tapping beauties! A standout as well was the performance of Heidi (Karen Lundry) and Young Heidi (Danielle Pennisi) in “One More Kiss”…it is wonderful to hear broadway belting and light quasi-opera in the same show. This is especially so when beautifully performed by Experience and Innocence. The set design of Nino Spallacci is masterfully done. Deft and clever, as most small stages must master, it reversed from downward brick and pipe staircase to upscale white and gold showcase steps, with an expansion on one edge for the Loveland sequence. The colors in Loveland were a bit cartoony, and the outfits bizarre as a waking dreaming feverish vision should be and never moreso than in the quartet that opens with the ensemble of Young leads. The clash of the teal dress of Young Phyllis with the vibrating red dress of Young Sally was almost audible, but what a winsome pair of pairs! Very sweet and almost like figures from the top of a music box, or the interior of a snowglobe…? Sondheim is difficult to sing and a joy to master, and Sue Chandler prepared her cast well. See “Follies”! MOC has put together a marvelous eclectic group of talents. It is easy to get to the Theatre from the Parkway, Turnpike or public transit. There are dining adventures to be had in Bloomfield and best of all, there’s still time to see this wonderful production. “Follies” is playing at the Van Fossan Theatre at the corners of Franklin and Fremont Streets on the campus of Bloomfield College immediately adjacent, and part of, Westminster Hall. At this writing, tickets are still available for performances at 8pm Friday and Saturday, April 11 & 12, and the 2pm Sunday performance April 13. Tickets are $25 General Admission; $22 for seniors; and $15 for students with I.D. For reservations, call 973-773-9933. AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY by QonStage.com Sherri Rase is an award-winning activist in New Jersey’s LGBTI community. Her articles have appeared in various magazines and newslettersm ranging from op-ed to LGBTI history. She has been Jersey Pride’s co-stage manager for the past 12 years, and made her Cherry Grove performance debut in July 2001. Sherri is active in appreciation of the arts and is happy to contribut to FIQNews, NYQNews, and QonStage websites.” - SHERRI RASE
— Q ONSTAGE.COM
“In her new CD, entitled 'Crazy In Love,' Janice Lynn exudes her lively brand of energy into jazzy love song renditions, which convey her genuine love of theatrical and classical music compilations." "She sings her heart away with romantic song favorites such as 'Walkin' After Midnight,' 'Crazy,' and 'Love Me Tender,' including musical numbers like 'The Trolley Song' from Meet Me in St Louis, to name a few." "With her velvet smooth vocals, she delivers a spicy, yet soulful blend of various classy tunes spanning six decades of lengendary songs.” - TINA PAPAS
— PUBLISHED IN "TODAY"
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