‘Follies’ Was My First Broadway Present. 50 Years Later, I Bear in mind It All.

That pleasure was tinged with a thrill of illicit betrayal. Sure, “Follies” was undeniably an enormous Broadway musical, staged with an opulence that may be unthinkable right this moment. However this story of two sad {couples}, stalked by the ghosts of their youthful selves throughout a showbiz reunion within the ruins of a as soon as stately theater, was telling me that the optimistic guarantees of the musical comedies I had been weaned on had been lies.

In a canopy story that got here out a month later — its photos would adorn my bed room partitions, together with posters of Humphrey Bogart and Vanessa Redgrave, till I left for faculty — Time journal enthusiastically (and precisely) described “Follies” as anti-nostalgic, a contemporary corrective to the cheery, escapist camp of hit revivals like “No, No Nanette.”

Time’s evaluation was the alternative of that of the New York Occasions critics Clive Barnes and Walter Kerr, who didn’t like “Follies” in any respect. The plot, they wrote, was hackneyed and formulaic. As for the songs, with their homages to kinds of showbiz previous, Barnes referred to as them a “non-hit parade of pastiche.”

I couldn’t disagree about James Goldman’s e-book, which felt like a rehash of the most effective sellers about middle-aged disenchantment I borrowed from my mother and father. (I already suspected that my future was in criticism.) However the songs caught with me, together with piercing pictures of ageing performers clinging to a waning highlight. And I had a obscure sense that I’d be destined to perpetually recall this odd and majestic present “like a film in my head that performs and performs,” to borrow from its script.

In some methods, “Follies” was an ideal match to my adolescent self. My mother and father had all the time inspired me to know that previous folks hadn’t all the time been previous, to search for the layers of what they’d been. (I used to be fascinated by the tradition of my grandparents’ era, which meant that references to Brenda Frazier and “Abie’s Irish Rose” didn’t go over my head.)

And a part of what I discovered so affecting about musicals had been the variations between their exalted types and the usually abnormal lives they portrayed. (I’d restage traditional musicals in my head with my family and friends within the main roles; it made me cry fortunately.)

What I didn’t get then — and couldn’t have as a youngster — was how the music was the very sound of reminiscence. It was the cleverness of Sondheim’s lyrics that attracted me in my youth. I cherished quoting their refined rhymes.

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