ARTS Extra: Phantom of the Follies

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Hold on to your top hats and canes all you Gleeks and other lovers of show tunes because Shelly Lee Cole and Ken Ellis are mashing up two of your ab fav composers for their new show, Phantom of the Follies. Oh! you guessed it from the title didn’t you?

Local singing stars Shelley Lee Cole and Ken Ellis, in a program of music from two of Broadway’s legendary composers. (photo by Keri Hensley)

It is all Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim songs. But to let all the Musical Theatre challenged in on the joke, the title, Phantom of the Follies is derived from Webber’s 1986 Broadway blockbuster, The Phantom of the Opera and Follies Sondheim’s hit show form the 1970’s. The show features a multitude of tunes from each composer’s work including a medley from the highly recognizable, West Side Story and the touching ballad, I Don’t Know How to Love Him from Jesus Christ Superstar.

Cole, whose formal training isin opera and Ellis, who honed his performance skills on the cruise ship circuit, previously produced two similar concerts for Play On!. 2006’s Broadway Delights spot lighted a mixed bag of Broadway composers from different eras while Broadway Now and Then (2009) showcased older music in the first half and newer Broadway tunes in the second. Phantom of the Follies will be the first time the entire focus is on only two relatively contemporary composers.

“We chose Lloyd Webber and Sondheim because they are two of the best known composers of the 20th century and they have a wealth of material to choose from,” says Cole when asked why she and Ellis selected these particular two artists. “But,”she adds,” I think it was mostly because we love singing Lloyd Webber and Sondheim music.” Webber is featured in Act One which includes selections from Phantom of the Opera, Aspects of Love, Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar and Sunset Boulevard. Act Two is all Sondheim, showcasing songs from Sweeny Todd, Follies, A Little Night Music, Company and Into the Woods.

The show will focus on the music, often presented Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme stye from two black stools front and center with accompanist, Alice Layman stage left on a little side wing. A few costume changes for effect and a minimal amount of choreography by Ellis will utilize the repainted multi level set left over from Play On!‘s recent production of For Colored Girls For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf keep the show visually interesting. Cole says, “There is lots we can do with blocking. It’s a really fun set to work on. In terms of real choreography, Ken will be doing a little soft shoe number to All I Need is the Girl from Gypsy.”

There will be no designed sound in the hour and fifty minute show, “except for the piano, our un-mic’d voices and the sound of applause,” says Cole. Play On! Artistic Director, Alex Citron is designing the lighting to set the mood for the various songs. For those of you who really want to put on the Ritz, there is a champagne meet-and-greet with the actors following the matinee performance on May 20th.

When asked what she enjoys most about putting Phantom of the Follies together, Cole sites the artistic process. “Just being able to collaborate with Ken, we just work so well together.” Or perhaps she means, as Sondheim put it in Sunday in the Park with George, “Work is what you do for others, liebchen. Art is what you do for yourself.”

 

 

 

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