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story.lead_photo.caption Moriah Patterson (left) and Jennifer Caffey flank Daniel Collier in Follies at Argenta Community Theater.

Argenta Community Theater Producing Artistic Director Vincent Insalaco says that the 24 singer-actors he has brought together for his production of Stephen Sondheim's Follies is "arguably one of the best local casts to ever be assembled for a musical in Arkansas."

The musical has its second preview performance today; its eight-show run opens Friday at the theater on Main Street in North Little Rock's Argenta District.

Follies

Preview 7 p.m. today; 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 16-17; 2 p.m. Sunday; 7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, March 13-15, Argenta Community Theater, 405 Main St., North Little Rock. Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by James Goldman.

Tickets: $15-$40; special cabaret table seating available.

(501) 353-1443

tinyurl.com/actfollies

The story, inspired by the famed Ziegfeld Follies, involves a reunion at a crumbling Broadway theater, due for demolition, of the folks who used to perform there. That tests the crumbling three-decade-long marriages of two former dancers (Kathryn Pryor and Karen Q. Clark) and their husbands (Jay Clark and Daniel Collier). James Goldman's book shifts the timeline from them to the younger versions of themselves.

The principals include Judy Trice, Jessica Mylonas, Patti Airoldi, Jo Murray, Mary Ann Hansen, Moriah Patterson, Roben Sullivant and Bob Bidewell. In the ensemble: Eric McDaniel, Kayren Baker, Jamie Boshears, Jennifer Caffey, Annslee Clay, Angela Collier, Stormy Donham, Karen Fraley, Claire Rhodes, Tony Clay, Duane Jackson, Evan Moore and Ethan Patterson.

Performing anything by Sondheim is difficult, Insalaco says, but Follies presents some particular musical challenges.

"The music never stops," he explains. "It's not an Andrew Lloyd Webber-type show, but even the dialogue is underscored." The show blends Sondheim's score with a pastiche of show music from the 1920s-40s. Several of the songs have become standards, including "Broadway Baby," "I'm Still Here," "Too Many Mornings," "Could I Leave You?" and "Losing My Mind."

It's done more often in concert, as the Weekend Theater performed it in July 1996; a fully staged version is also a rarity, Insalaco says. It has had several revivals on Broadway and in the West End of London, "and every time it's had a revival it's been updated." The script he's using for this production is the "best one," he says, "the original with some adaptations."

Insalaco says when he first planned to do the show a year ago, he had no idea it would happen in the middle of an unofficial central Arkansas Sondheim festival this winter and spring. It includes a January production of Sweeney Todd by the Young Players Second Stage at Benton's Royal Theatre; the Praeclara/Wildwood co-production of Into the Woods, April 13-14 at Wildwood Park for the Arts in west Little Rock; and the Weekend Theater production of Assassins, April 6-8, 13-15 and 20-22.

But he thinks he made a good choice in picking this particular Sondheim musical. "It's the first show he did completely on his own," the director explains, "and arguably his most celebrated."

The Argenta Community Theater's current season continues with a stage adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, April 18-28, and Roger Miller's musical Big River, July 18-28 (both run dates include previews).

Insalaco says his planning for 2018-19 hangs on when/whether he can nail down the rights to several shows he wants to do, but for December he'll restage A Christmas Carol, which the theater premiered at the end of 2017 from a new adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic by local playwright Judy Goss.

Weekend on 03/08/2018

Print Headline: Argenta presents Sondheim's celebrated musical Follies

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