ON WITH THE SHOW

Imelda Staunton and Stephen Sond­heim tell Erica Wag­ner about the up­com­ing Na­tional Theatre re­vival of Fol­lies

Harper's Bazaar (UK) - - Contents - By ERICA WAG­NER

Imelda Staunton doesn’t need many words to tell me why she loves to be in Stephen Sond­heim’s shows. ‘He writes for ac­tors,’ she says sim­ply. When we speak, she’s just about to be­gin her fi­nal week as the iconic Martha in Ed­ward Al­bee’s Who’s Afraid of Vir­ginia Woolf ? – a pro­duc­tion, directed by James Mac­don­ald, that gar­nered fives­tar re­views all round. The emo­tional tur­moil of Al­bee will segue neatly into that of Amer­ica’s reign­ing ge­nius of the mu­si­cal theatre. This month she’ll star as Sally in Sond­heim’s Fol­lies in its de­but pro­duc­tion at the Na­tional Theatre. ‘This is a piece about dis­ap­point­ment, about lives not lived, loves not en­joyed,’ she says; ‘it’s a mu­si­cal on a slant.’

Fol­lies, first pro­duced on Broad­way in 1971, was a show ahead of its time. Like Tom Stop­pard’s Ar­ca­dia – writ­ten more than 20 years later – it bends time, its char­ac­ters drift­ing past the ghosts of their van­ished selves. Those char­ac­ters, for­merly per­form­ers in ‘Weis­mann’s Fol­lies’ – based upon the fa­mous Ziegfeld Fol­lies – meet for a re­union be­fore their old theatre is due to be de­mol­ished. Decades have passed since their glory days, and their en­coun­ters have the poignancy that so of­ten marks Sond­heim’s oeu­vre.

‘His work is com­plex,’ ob­serves Staunton; and as an actor in her glory days, she rel­ishes com­plex­ity. Nom­i­nated for 11 Olivier Awards, she has won four – three of them in Sond­heim’s shows: Into the Woods in 1991, Sweeney Todd in 2013 and Gypsy in 2016. ‘I feel that he is the Shake­speare of mu­si­cal theatre, no doubt about it. I love

This page and op­po­site: sketches, dresses and cos­tume sam­ples for ‘Fol­lies’, de­signed by Vicki

Mor­timer

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