Follies in Concert [1986]

The six-disc Stephen Sondheim DVD Collection is pure Broadway gold, encompassing three original Broadway cast performances and three all-star concerts celebrating the work of musical theater's most important composer over the last half of the 20th century. Into the Woods is Sondheim's most popular show, an amalgam of fractured fairy tales and what happens after "happily ever after." Bernadette Peters heads the cast, joined by Tony winner Joanna Gleason and Chip Zein. Sunday in the Park with George was Sondheim's immediately preceding work, also a collaboration with writer-director James Lapine and also starring Bernadette Peters. She plays Dot, the mistress of brilliant French pointillist painter Georges Seurat (Mandy Patinkin), in a powerful work about the nature of art and the artist that gains substantially when you can see the staging elements. The third Broadway cast performance is Passion, which was shot on stage though not before a live audience. It's a story of obsessive love in which the romance between Giorgio (Jere Shea) and Clara (Marin Mazzie) is disrupted by a strange woman named Signora Fosca (Tony winner Donna Murphy). Sweeney Todd is generally considered Sondheim's best work, and it's well performed by Patti LuPone and George Hearn (reprising his role as the demonic barber almost 20 years after he played it opposite Angela Lansbury in a 1982 video recording). Follies in Concert was an attempt to right a wrong created by a truncated original cast recording, so it's ironic that roughly half the program is backstage material combined with only 47 minutes of concert footage. There are some brilliant moments, though, from such performers as Barbara Cook, Hearn, Patinkin, and Lee Remick. A Celebration at Carnegie Hall is another all-star cast performance of both Broadway stars and operatic voices peppered with comedy from Bill Irwin. Highlights include the ensemble numbers, Daisy Egan's "Broadway Baby," and Patrick Cassidy and Victor Garber's "The Ballad of Booth," which is about as close as you'll get to an original cast performance of Assassins. All in all, this invaluable set preserves and celebrates an important body of work that may never again be documented this well. --David Horiuchi

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