Runner up - Best Musical (Bolton Evening News Awards)
11th - 16th November 1996
Photographs by John Tustin
Production Officials
Director Andrew Close
Musical Director Marjorie Y. Hough
Choreographer Graham R. Edgington
Sally Durant Plummer Renee Easterbrook
Phyllis Rogers Stone Nora Howcroft
Buddy Plummer Don Howcroft
Benjamin Stone Graham R. Edgington
Young Sally Lindsay Jackson
Young Phyllis Vicki Wilson
Stella Deems Jane Bickerstaffe
Hattie Walker Sylvia Fishwick
Emily Whitman Glenys Poole
Solange LaFitte Shirley Ann Hill
Carlotta Campion Joyce Walters
Young Ben Andrew Pepper
Young Buddy Paul Greenhalgh
Dimitri Weissman Ernest Dawson
Roscoe Roy Iddon
Dee Dee West Pamela Conlon
Meredith Lane Barbara Haslam
Heidi Schiller Margaret Steel
Jessica Brown Ros Binge
Francesca Holly Binge
Theodore Whitman Paul Brennan
Young Heidi Jan Ashton
Vanessa Claire Clarkson
Young Stella Gillian Pollitt
Young Carlotta Barbara Martin
Young Emily Paula Williams
Young Dee Dee Carole Brooks
Young Meredith Adrienne Wormald
Kevin David Wilson
Head Waiter Roger Higginbottom
Max Deems Robin Thompson
Heidi's escort Paul J. Duckworth
Carlotta's escort Bill Sharples
Vincent Mike Taylor
  • Young Phyllis and Young Sally Young Phyllis and Young Sally
  • Phyllis and Buddy Phyllis and Buddy
  • Sally and Benjamin Sally and Benjamin
  • Follies Girls Follies Girls
  • Solange LaFitte "Ah, Paris" Solange LaFitte "Ah, Paris"
  • Stella "Mirror, Mirror" Stella "Mirror, Mirror"
  • Carlotta "I'm Still Here" Carlotta "I'm Still Here"
  • Young Heidi and Heidi "One More Kiss" Young Heidi and Heidi "One More Kiss"
  • Buddy, Sally, Benjamin and Phyllis Buddy, Sally, Benjamin and Phyllis
  • Young Phyllis and Young Ben Young Phyllis and Young Ben
  • Young Sally and Young Buddy Young Sally and Young Buddy
  • "Loveland" "Loveland"
  • Buddy and girls "God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues" Buddy and girls "God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues"
  • Phyllis "The Story Of Lucy And Jessie" Phyllis "The Story Of Lucy And Jessie"
  • Benjamin "Live, Laugh, Love" Benjamin "Live, Laugh, Love"
  • "Who's That Woman" "Who's That Woman"
  • The Company The Company

  • Bolton Evening News Review
  • NODA North West News Review
Professional companies have had difficulties with this bittersweet Stephen Sondheim musical, but Walmsley's guest director Andrew Close has achieved a production that should appeal to a wide audience. The production is glitzy, glamourous and very classy. The society brought out all its big guns and there were some splendid individual performances for a considerable way down the cast list at last night's opening.

The story centres on two former showgirls from the Weismann Follies (clearly a thin disguise for the Ziegfield Follies) who are married to a couple of stage-door Johnnies they met 30 years earlier. Ernest Dawson was an obvious, and ideal, choice for Weismann. The couples come together with other ex-chorus girls for a final reunion before the Weismann Theatre becomes a parking lot.

Few of Sondheim's characters command warm sympathy, but the four principals certainly breathe life into their roles. Nora Howcroft as hard-as-nails Phyllis Rogers Stone played the part with the toughness of a Broadway great. Her 'Could I Leave you?' was a tour de force. Renee Easterbrook as Sally Durant Plummer had already reminded me of Julia McKenzie before I remember that McKenzie was in the London production that enjoyed a good run. Sally gets one of the show's big numbers, 'Losing My Mind' and Renee last night made the most of it. Graham Edgington, also the shows talented choreographer, had plenty of scope for his excellent singing and dancing, but also had some heavy drama to perform as the troubled Benjamin Stone. If Don Howcroft was worried by the electronic fault that seemed to affect his mike, it did not show and he completed the first-class lead quartet with some moving singing and acting.

There were further talented performances from all the members of a large cast. Vicky Wilson, Lindsay Jackson, Andrew Pepper, Paul Greenhalgh as the young "ghosts" of four principals showed great promise. Carlotta (Joyce Walters), with 'I'm Still Here' and Hattie (Sylvia Fishwick) with 'Broadway Baby', did justice to two of the biggest songs in the show. Irene Bowers, Audrey Raistrick and Eva Vaudrey co-ordinated the lavish wardrobe. Marjorie Hough's musical direction was admirable.

Doreen Crowther
This debut production by Andrew Close was marked by many exceptional performances from the cast. Coming from a background in the drama field, Andrew gave the characters in this gritty musical that well "fleshed-out" feel in contrast to the cardboard cut-outs one occasionally sees on the musical stage. This is not to say that the musical element was in any way neglected. The society, at last, decided on an orchestra and, under the direction of Marjorie Hough, they coped well with the Sondheim score and added much to the finished article.

The plot concerns the Weismann Theatre, soon to be reduced to a car park (that sound familiar!), plus an assortment of one-time showgirls and their partners who gather for a reunion party. The reunion uncovers long forgotten memories of the heady Weismann Follies days, rekindles old passions and focuses on the stark realities of their less than satisfactory current lives. This required powerful performances and that is precisely what we got. The four main characters, Sally Durant Plummer (Renée Easterbrook), Phyllis Rogers Stone (Nora Howcroft), Buddy Plummer (Don Howcroft) and Benjamin Stone (Graham Edgington) all achieved the depth and intensity required for the characters. Their many vocal numbers were also of the highest quality. "Could I Leave You" from Phyllis, "The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues" (Buddy), "Losing My Mind" (Sally and "Live, Laugh, Love" (Benjamin) were all right on the button. Their younger alter egos were well-matched and successfully played by Lyndsay Jackson, Vicki Wilson, Paul Greenhalgh and Andrew Pepper.

The supporting players were in no way overshadowed by the leading characters. Indeed, arguably the best vocal number came from Joyce Walters as Carlotta with a brilliantly executed "I'm Still Here." She was followed closely by Sylvia Fishwick (Hattie) with one of the better-known numbers, "Broadway Baby" and an exceedingly seductive Solange (Shirley Ann Hill) with "Ah, Paris!" The company numbers were well staged with simple, but effective, choreography by Graham Edgington whilst the set design, normally a major feature of this society, was limited by the very nature of the subject to stark, but effective, multi-level back-stage set. The backstage panache was, however, satisfied with glitzy sets for the "Loveland" section.

The costume department added its weight with some excellent creations to put the final icing on the cake. For Sondheim aficionados, this production would probably be the highlight of the year whereas for others, the lack of humour and melodic tunes may not have sent them home with a song in their hearts. To whichever camp you belong in this was a splendid production and the society is to be congratulated for taking on this recently released show.

Glyn Neary

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