Theater Works presents the Arizona premiere of “Follies,” Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim’s renowned masterpiece, on the Gyder Stage at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts Feb. 20 through March 15. Notably, opening night is exactly 44 years after the first public performance of “Follies” at its out-of-town tryout in Boston.
“Follies” is more than a story about retired performers who come together one last time in a crumbling theater about to be torn down. It’s about a heart-wrenching examination of life, theater and the road not taken. Music and lyrics are by Sondheim, and the book is by Academy Award winner James Goldman, also known for “The Lion in Winter.”
Directing “Follies” is Phillip Fazio, who also directed “Ragtime,” a previous Theater Works production. Another “Ragtime” veteran, Steve Hilderbrand, is set to musically direct. He will be conducting a live orchestra of 12 musicians. Considered by some to be Sondheim’s greatest work, the “Follies” score contains such classic songs as “Broadway Baby,” “Losing My Mind,” “Too Many Mornings” and “I’m Still Here.”
Broadway actors Kelli James Chase and Patti Davis Suarez join the “Follies” cast as Carlotta Campion and Hattie Walker respectively. Chase appeared in the original Broadway production of “Les Miserables” and became the first replacement in the role of Eponine.
Suarez debuted on Broadway in “How Now, Dow Jones” and then appeared in the original Broadway production of “Promises, Promises,” choreographed by Michael Bennett, who was also choreographer and co-director of the original Broadway production of “Follies.” Suarez also played Eve Harrington opposite Lauren Bacall and later Anne Baxter in the Broadway production of “Applause.”
Local talent includes Rusty Ferracane in the central role of Ben Stone and Shari Watts as Phyllis Rogers Stone. Ferracane is known for his roles as Georges in “La Cage aux Folles,” Miguel de Cervantes/Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha,” Emile De Becque in “South Pacific,” Father Flynn in “Doubt,” Joe Pitt in “Angels In America,” both Parts I and II, and Harold Hill in “The Music Man.”
Watts won an AriZoni Award as Martha in the Theater Works presentation of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Other memorable roles include Linda Loman in “Death of a Salesman” and Gloria in “Sons of the Prophet.” Phoenix New Times named her Best Actress of the Year in 2011 for her performance as Big Edie in “Grey Gardens” and then again in 2014 for her portrayal of Violet Weston in “August: Osage County.”
Purchase tickets to “Follies” online or by calling the Theater Works box office at 623-815-7930. Ticket prices are $36 for adults, $32 for seniors and $15 for students. The Peoria Center for the Performing Arts is located at 8335 W. Peoria Ave. in Peoria, Arizona.