Follies in Concert: Four Days in New York
provides a backstage look at a genuine Broadway event, the 1985 concert performance of Stephen Sondheim's 1971 Broadway musical Follies
. A star-studded roster is backed by the New York Philharmonic, featuring principals Barbara Cook, Mandy Patinkin, Lee Remick, and George Hearn, supported by the likes of Carol Burnett, Liliane Montevecchi, Elaine Stritch, and Liz Callaway. Unfortunately, this 90-minute documentary only includes about 47 minutes of actual concert footage--ironic because the purpose of the concert was to record the whole score after the original Broadway cast recording had omitted or shortened many songs.
Still, what's here is not to be missed. Sondheim's musical brilliantly captures the memories and heartache of a long-lost era and the performers who embodied it. At a reunion of the fictional musical revue The Weismann Follies, the long-retired players relive their careers through pastiches of past songwriters, sometimes accompanied in song or dance by the ghosts of their previous selves. At the same time, four of the people (two married couples) remember their pasts and wonder whether they chose their spouses--and the course of their lives--correctly. This film includes glimpses of the rehearsals and comments from the actors and Sondheim himself that lend depth and insight to the production. And even if only about half of the actual concert is represented, the closing "Loveland" sequence is almost complete, and "Who's That Woman (The Mirror Song)?", though heavily edited, does provide some sense of the choreography. --David Horiuchi
The DVD release of Follies in Concert
contains the original 90-minute documentary with no additional footage, which is a disappointment to fans longing to see the parts of the concert that were never released on video. Sound quality is fairly good, though the Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo provides a somewhat narrow soundstage. The picture retains much of the graininess of the original film, most notably the portions shot in low lighting conditions. Most welcome will be the DVD's 23 chapters, which allow the viewer to skip the concert preparation and go straight to the songs, all of which are individually tracked (even the 45-second "Rain on the Roof"). --David Horiuchi