Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nostalgia: Is Follies Just For Old People?

Someone under the age of 22 asked me if she should go see Follies.  Since it is in previews I won't review it yet, but my knee-jerk (emphasis on the jerk) response was "No, I think you are too young for that kind of nostalgia."  Another 20-something took umbrage with that statement and frankly she should have told me to fuck-off.  Now I know a certain 18 year old who is OBSESSED with Follies so it could be the type of material to appeal to certain young why my response.

Follies, in my eyes, is all about nostalgia and a deep-seated fixation on the past.  

I don't think when I was in my 20's I was that focused on the past. I was in fact kind of obsessed with my future.  What was I going to do?  What was I going to be?  How was I going to "make it?"  Life was scary but it was full of opportunities.  Everything seemed possible.  It seemed to me, if you just worked hard enough, you could get where you wanted to go. 

The older I get the less I seem to focus on "my future" and contemplate more of my past.  In my 20's, I could be nostalgic about high school or friends lost in the passage of time, but the balance of my thoughts between past and future, were largely tipped in favor of the future.  In my 30's, I find the scales are just starting to tip the other way. 

Confession:  I bought Lite Brite off of eBay this year for a photo project I was doing on nostalgic items of my childhood.  I then bought a Viewmaster with Muppet disks to go in it.  I then bought a typewriter.  Yeah, Ok I might be a little obsessed with the past right now.  My scales might be seriously out of balance.  But having discussed this with some of my 30-something brethren, I guess I am not alone in that.  Also, my body is physically falling apart.  I'm here to tell you--warranty on body parts totally runs out in your 30's. #thingsnoonetellsyou

It's not that now life is no longer full of possibilities and opportunities, it just feels different to me now. Of course you can change careers (I am certainly evidence of that) and multiple times.  You can change cities and partners (been there, done that).  Really nothing in life is set in stone (only thinking that makes it so).  Shifting gears, changing paths is possible, but as my lower back will tell you, it turns out you can become less flexible over time.  I am definitely more susceptible to (emotional) motion sickness upon making drastic changes.  The biggest difference is that now I am much more cognizant of the consequences than I ever was before.  Which brings me back to....Follies. One of the major questions in Follies is CAN you turn back the clock, start again, correct mistakes made.  If you do, there is a cost. As an adult, will you take that risk and endure those costs?

I have no right to say that 20-somethings won't get something out of Follies but my query remains: would someone younger enjoy or appreciate that question?  In a mindset of youthful, infinite possibilities who wants to hear that the possibilities might be actually finite.  Totes depressing right?



  1. I'm closer to 30 than 20, but I kind of went in with the attitude that this was a show about old people and I was surprised by how much I could relate to these characters who have so many regrets in life.

  2. Thanks for the feedback. I totally related to the characters! Maybe if I looked at it as focusing on "regret" rather than "nostalgia" that would certainly be more universal. Regret can be had at any age and about both the profound & the silly (too many M&Ms for lunch). :)

  3. I'm in my 30s, so I'm probably no judge. I would think if I were in my 20s, though, I might see it as a cautionary tale. I might look at the youngsters dancing around the edges and see myself reflected there (not that I can dance, and certainly not in heels and a headdress) and begin to think about how my choices now might play out for my future.

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  5. Looks like Ron Raines also wonders how people in their 20's would react to Follies.

  6. To me, FOLLIES is a show of regrets, nostalgia and the glorification of the past. In the show, the past is held as better than the present. As the 4 central characters sing, "everything was possible and nothing made sense." I speak for myself when I say this, but that line alone sums up my viewing of the future and present. It's a world of opportunities. It's frightening, exhilarating, perplexing and downright incredible. You worry about chasing about the girl of your dream, you worry about having fun, about doing this and that, about how big a house you'll have and about having the "biggest goddamn limousine." You can almost describe it as a hopeful naivety, which is furthered in the show by the Young 4's Follies Number "You're Gonna Love Tomorrow/Love Will See us Through." Young Buddy and Young Sally are not perfect ("I, too, have a cornucopia of imperfections") but they are going to work through their imperfections because of their love. ("But no matter what goes wrong, love will see us through.") Young Ben and Young Phyllis are idealistic about their future ("Each day from now will be the best day you ever had."). I am at THAT stage in my life. A stage where "the goddamnedest hours that I've ever spent where waiting for the girls upstairs." I can relate to the that part of the show instantly. But for me, the show is most poignantly captured by one single moment: as Heidi takes the stage during the second act to sing the haunting operatic waltz “One More Kiss.” As Heidi looks over to her ghost counterpart, she sings “all things beautiful must die.” Up on the stage, you see Heidi, a frail, elderly woman join her younger, beautiful ghost in singing a lush and rich operetta about lost love. Juxtaposed against a theater in ruins, the audience realizes that all things beautiful do die. The rose-colored glasses of youth break, the future seems hopeless and the past is glorified because everything was possible (and nothing made sense). THAT fascinates me. THAT single moment breaks my heart. How does one go from Young Ben to the cold, stony and heartless Benjamin Stone? How does one go from the cheery, terrific Young Phyllis to the acerbic, snarky Phyllis Stone? How does one go from simple and kind Young Buddy to the sad, tired and unhappy Buddy Plummer? How does one go from the beautiful, radiant Young Sally to the sad, frumpy and depressed Sally Plummer? THAT is FOLLIES for me. That transformation, that juxtaposition between the past and the future. It's scary, and it scares me.