Mismatched pairs

Unrequited love in Sondheim’s ‘Follies’

RIGHT LOVE Emily Hansen and Andy Gonzalez playing young Sally and young Buddy in ‘Follies’. Playing through Oct. 7 at SVCT. RIGHT LOVE Emily Hansen and Andy Gonzalez playing young Sally and young Buddy in ‘Follies’. Playing through Oct. 7, 2017 at SVCT. Photo: Elizabeth Mandel
From the opening languorous procession of Broadway showgirls in stupendous headdresses and a boatload of sequins and rhinestones, through the finale and final bows of the cast, be prepared to be dazzled by South Valley Civic Theatre’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies.

Director Megan Griffin has assembled a cast of triple-threat actors, singers and dancers who deliver on all levels in this musical story of a group of Ziegfeld Follies-like dancers who gather for a reunion as the Weismann Theater on Broadway is about to be demolished to make way for precious New York City parking in 1971. Chief among them are Follies dancers Sally and Phyllis and the men who wooed and married them: Ben and Buddy.

Each couple’s 30-year marriage has faced its challenges. First off, Sally was in love with Ben but married the philandering Buddy Plummer. She’s been carrying a torch ever since.
The other couple, Ben and Phyllis, were mismatched from the start on intellectual, economic and social levels. The Stones are unhappy and bitter.

As the reunion begins and the Follies alumnae in elegant gowns greet each other as long-lost friends.

The show pairs younger versions of the characters with their more seasoned and disillusioned selves. “Waiting for the Girls Upstairs” showcases Callie Camacho-Light as Phyllis Rogers Stone, Brianna Pember as Young Phyllis, Suzanne Guzzetta as Sally Durant Plummer, Emily Hansen as Young Sally, Bob Brown as Benjamin Stone, Edie Garcia-Flores as Young Ben, Michael Kaelin as Buddy Plummer and Andy Gonzalez as Young Buddy.

Virtually every character gets a chance to shine, either solo or in an ensemble song.

And although the show truly belongs to the four central characters, its heart is in Sally, with her deep emotional longing for what she could not—and cannot ever—have. Suzanne Guzzetta, with a lovely voice, lays her emotions totally bare in the aching “In Buddy’s Eyes” and “Losing My Mind.”

Michael Kaelin’s Buddy is a true song and dance man, neatly marrying comedy and pathos into a singular package of energy with top-notch vocals and Chaplinesque physical comedy. “The Right Girl,” at the top of the second act, is a tour de force.

Our other unhappy couple, the Stones, are equally ill-suited to one another. As Ben, Bob Brown is appropriately ill at ease, and grabs our sympathy in “The Road You Didn’t Take.” He’s partnered with the sensational Callie Camacho-Light, who sashays her way through “Could I Leave You?” leaving no question as to the answer.

Sondheim’s scores leave little room for error, and the cast is up to the challenge, ably assisted by vocal director Carol Harris, music director Alan Chipman and a 13-piece band (which sometimes overpowers some sung vocals). Choreographers Christine Carrillo and Jessica Damron keep the dance action lively.

Michelle Griffin and Adrianne Wilkinson’s costume designs and headdresses are truly spectacular, awash in sparkles, satin and chiffon. Bravo all around!

South Valley Civic Theatre presents ‘Follies’ through Oct. 7 at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse, 5th and Monterey St, Morgan Hill. For tickets and more information, visit svct.org.

Susan Rife
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About Susan Rife
Lover of arts & books; ukulele learner; therapeutic knitter; long-distance runner. Former Arts and Books Editor at Herald-Tribune.