Follies Toulon, France
The first Broadway production of the Tony Award winning musical Follies was presented during 1971 in New York City. Since its premiere, performances of Follies have been staged across the United States, England, Ireland and Australia. It would take over 40 years for the French premiere of the Stephen Sondheim musical about a Broadway theatre in decline. Performed in Toulon, the French premiere of Follies featured an international cast and was staged at the Toulon Opera House in 2013.
About the Production
The first French production of Follies was put on during March 2013 at the port city of Toulon in southern France. The limited engagement was performed from 8 to 10 March 2013 with three shows at the historic Toulon Opera House. A co-production between the Opéra de Toulon and the Opéra-Théâtre de Metz, the musical ran for two hours and thirty minutes. Using the full original orchestration, all songs were performed in English with French subtitles. Prices for performances ranged from €70 to €27 (assigned seating), and €9 for general admission (standing).
The Toulon Opera, also known locally as L'opéra de Toulon, opened in 1862 with the comic opera Les Mouquetaires de la reine. The storied venue is France's second largest opera house after the Palais Garnier in Paris. The national historic site features a neo-classical design with gray and pink columns, and Byzantine influenced decorative features. With capacity for 1,797 people over five levels, the theatre's foundation covers 2,000 square metres. The Toulon Opera is home to the Opéra Toulon Provence Méditerranée, an opera company that performs approximately eight operas each season. The elegant lyric opera house is situated at 23 Boulevard de Strasbourg in the centre of Toulon, a major port on the Mediterranean coast of Provence.
The largely English and French cast of the Toulon production of Follies was led by Charlotte Page as Sally, Liz Robertson as Phyllis, Graham Bickley as Ben, Jérôme Pradon as Buddy, Nicole Croisille as Carlotta, and Julia Sutton as Hattie. The cast also included Northern Ireland's Fra Fee, who also starred in Tom Hopper's 2012 film Les Misérables and played the role of Young Buddy in Toulon. Other cast members included Stuart Neal as Young Ben, Sophie May Wake as Young Phyllis, Jessie May as Young Sally, Kristy Swift as Young Heidi, John Conroy as Theodore, Hoe Shovelton as Roscoe and Max Deems, and Sarah Ingram as Stella. In a departure from other productions of Follies, the role of Solange was played by a man, French comedian Denis d'Arcangelo. The cast was rounded out by Jo Cameron Brown as Emily, Isabel Cramaro as Margie, Francois Beretta as Kevin, and Larrio Ekson as Weismann.
The musical was led by French director Olivier Bénézech and British American conductor David Charles Abell. Bénézech also directed French productions of Fiddler on the Roof and Grease, while Abell served as the conductor for the 10th and 25th anniversary concerts for Les Misérables and the French premieres of two other Sondheim musicals, Sweeney Todd and Sunday in the Park With George. The production team also included choreographer Caroline Roëlands, costume designer Frédéric Olivier and set designer Valerie Jung. Lightening was overseen by Marc-Antoine Vellutini, while Stephen Crockett served as the casting manager.