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January 9, 2012

On the Record: New Broadway cast recording of 'Follies"

Under Old Business from 2011, I've got a whole bunch of recordings that I never managed to hear.

I figured I would try to get through a few of them before we get too much deeper into 2012, and a music theater gem seemed like a good place to start.

One of the great events of the Mid-Atlantic theater season in 2011 was the Kennedy Center’s revival of Stephen Sondheim’s innovative, transporting “Follies,” with a cast headed by Bernadette Peters, Jan Maxwell, Elaine Paige, Ron Raines and Danny Burstein.

The show, with some change of personnel, went on to Broadway, where it earned another round of critical acclaim. The new cast recording (PS Classics, two discs) explains what the fuss is all about.

This may not be definitive in every detail -- will any version of “Follies” ever be that? -- but it is filled with involving performances. And, in a bonus of Sondheim addicts, a good deal of dialogue is included on the two-disc set (a handsomely illustrated booklet adds to the appeal). The result is quite a vivid representation of the actual theatrical experience.

Peters is ...

a little short of spine-tingling, but always engaging, especially in her account of “In Buddy’s Eyes.” Raines proves to be a wonderfully sensitive vocal artist throughout. Maxwell and Burstein generate a good deal of electricity.

Other highlights include Elaine Paige’s vibrant “I’m Still Here,” and Jayne Houdyshell’s “Broadway Baby,” which seems to have a little, welcome dash of Elaine Stritch in it. <>The recorded sound is excellent, allowing the score, conducted by James Moore, to register with an immediacy and warmth that brings out subtleties as tellingly as the jazzy splashes.

Posted by Tim Smith at 6:27 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes, Drama Queens

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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