Saffron Walden theatre group's performance of Stephen Sondheim production marked 'Outstanding'

PUBLISHED: 13:36 16 March 2010 | UPDATED: 22:11 31 May 2010

FOLLIES, presented last week by Saffron Walden Musical Theatre Company, gave town hall audiences a chance to see a rarely performed show by the legendary American composer, Stephen Sondheim. From the moment the head waiter stripped away the dust sh

FOLLIES, presented last week by Saffron Walden Musical Theatre Company, gave town hall audiences a chance to see a rarely performed show by the legendary American composer, Stephen Sondheim.

From the moment the head waiter stripped away the dust sheet to reveal the grand staircase - the central element of the economically designed set and a bridge linking the past and present lives of the principal characters - the audience was caught up in an intense and often painfully moving drama of lost opportunities, mistaken choices and bitter recriminations.

The production, directed by David Hows, was outstanding on every level. The four principals (Matthew Chancellor as Ben, Louise Constable Maxwell as Phyllis, Steve Waring as Buddy and Fiona Wilson Waterworth as Sally) were remarkable not only for their controlled and polished performance of some very demanding musical numbers, but also for their utterly convincing portrayal of middle-aged people trying to make peace with their past.

They were supported by a strong cast which rarely put a foot wrong, and among whom Helen Jackson, Kerrie Walker, Chris Wagner and Jason Austin-Guest as the principals' younger selves were particularly impressive.

The addition of an extremely professional orchestra under the direction of Keith Oliver, brilliant costumes and minimalistic and atmospheric lighting, made the Saffron Walden Follies an unmissable treat.

Review by Frances Horgan

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