When a group of past performers discover their beloved, but crumbling, Broadway theater is scheduled for demolition, they gather for one last hurrah in their old haunt.
Based on the famous Ziegfeld Follies of Broadway, stars of the theatrical revue “Weismann’s Follies” reminisce about their time on stage in South Valley Civic Theatre’s (SVCT) performance of Follies by Stephen Sondheim.
Unlike most of SVCT’s shows, which rely on exciting set designs, Follies is anchored by elaborate costumes and musical numbers.
The show’s costumers Michelle Griffin and Adrianne Wilkinson worked together on the designs for the cast of 36. The actors, ages 17-70, perform much of the show as duets.
“The 12 Follies ‘Ghosts’ each have a costume that is representative of a particular decade from the 1910s through the 1940s,” says Griffin, who researched costuming for each of the periods represented. With $2,000 and six weeks to produce what took original Broadway costumers two years and a budget of more than $100,000 to pull off, Griffin says they are proud of the results.
“Each ‘Ghost’ costume has a unique shape and each elaborate headdress (created by Wilkinson) is very different from the next,” says Griffin.
Griffin says they repurposed many products from Dollar Store scouring pads and wire trash cans to car backrests—anything that could create a shape and be turned into a headpiece—the tallest of which is 3 ½ feet tall.
“We used flowers, old jewelry, feathers from old costumes, fairy wings, Christmas ornaments and picks and so much more,” she says.
Because the script calls for a limited color palette of black and white, the designers employed the use of texture, sparkle and costume shape to add visual interest.
Griffin says the workload was tremendous and unlike any of other 10 shows she’s costumed for.
“This has been my biggest challenge and has put forth the most spectacular costumes.”
She says they were fortunate to receive a large amount of help from the cast who took part in sewing, painting and rhinestoning of the costumes.
A powerful complement to the embellished ensembles is the music that accompanies the performance.
“We’ve changed the show through live orchestra, elaborate costumes and very strong vocal, choreography and acting talent,” says the show’s producer Marianne Snook.
Though Follies is the seventh show Snook has produced, she says this is her first all-adult cast. Snook says the shows characters reconsider their lives and how they acted as friends. There is a lot of rehashing of relationship issues during the show, which she says is achieved through flashbacks as each of the actors are “paired” with their younger selves—ghost dancers—“playing out the vision of the memory they are speaking of.”
Snook says the Sondheim’s songs are emotional and complex, resonating with anyone looking at their life in retrospect. Reflecting on their glory days, taking stock of their lives—a compendium of dreams.
Silicon Valley Civic Theatre presents ‘Follies’. Performances run Sept. 8-Oct. 7, 2017 at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse, 17090 Monterey Road, Morgan Hill. For more information, visit: svct.org.