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Published: Friday, 1/3/2003

`Follies' unites '71 cast members

BY ANN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Four lead members of the original 1971 Broadway cast of Follies will be reunited this weekend at Ann Arbor's Michigan Theater in a concert production of the Stephen Sondheim-James Goldman musical.

Follies In Concert - which also will feature Donna McKechnie, a native of the Detroit area and Tony Award-winning star of A Chorus Line - will be presented at 8 p.m. tomorrow and at 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday. The event is the climax of the 75th-anniversary celebration of the restored movie palace in downtown Ann Arbor.

Follies is the story of a reunion of ex-showgirls at their old theater on the night before it is to be torn down. The story focuses on Ben, Buddy, Phyllis, and Sally, now middle-aged and haunted by their younger selves.

Actors Kurt Peterson, Harvey Evans, Virginia Sandifur, and Marti Rolph - who played the young ghosts in the Broadway production more than 30 years ago - will play the older versions of their original roles.

“They have not worked together as a foursome since the original production,” noted Emily Phenix, Michigan Theater's film program manager.

McKechnie will play Carlotta Campion, singing the familiar “I'm Still Here.” The cast also includes 12 students from the University of Michigan's School of Music. Among them is Brian Hissong of Adrian as the young Ben.

Brent Wagner, head of the university's Musical Theater program and director of the Follies production, said he's usually too busy with school-related projects to get involved in local theater, but that he made time for this one.

“The whole thing just sounded fascinating,” Wagner explained, citing the reunion of the four original cast members, the involvement of McKechnie, the Sondheim score, and the opportunity for students to be in the cast. “It's a coming-together of the community and the university and the professional theater world in one concert,” Wagner pointed out.

As the name suggests, Follies In Concert focuses on the Sondheim score. Lyrics and spoken dialogue will tell the story, but it will not be a full-scale production with set changes and lavish costumes, Wagner said.

The approach is a good fit with the story's theme of coming to terms with our memories, he observed. “Follies is about relationships and people,” Wagner said.

Phenix said the setting of the story - the old theater on the eve of its destruction - is especially appropriate for the Michigan Theater's anniversary celebration. “Twenty years ago, the Michigan Theater almost suffered that same fate,” she said.

“Follies In Concert” will be presented at 8 p.m. tomorrow and at 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday at the Michigan Theater, 603 East Liberty St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are $45, $35, and $25. Information: 734-668-8397, ext. 25.



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