On Reflection at the Underbelly is ‘a complete treat’

Though in “One More Kiss” Heidi Schiller states that ‘all dreams must awake’, the cast of Follies are not quite yet ready to open their eyes and say goodbye to the National Theatre’s five-star production (and, who are am kidding, neither am I!). As part of the Underbelly Festival, for four nights in the Spiegeltent alternating cast members of Follies can be found performing songs pertinent and resonant to them alongside some unused songs from the Sondheim show. For any fan of musical theatre, On Reflection is a complete treat.

Organised by Janie Dee with direction from Josh Seymour, On Reflection allows cast members to share with the audience intimate stories about their lives. Aimee Hodnett told of the time she met Kristen Chenoweth, leading to an astounding performance of ‘The Girl in 14G’, whilst Alyn Hawke offered a tribute to the likes of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire who inspired him to become a dancer. Other stories and performances were more emotional, such as Adrian Grove and Ian McLaron’s duet in memory of the former’s father and his battle with Alzheimer’s.

This is, by all intents and purposes, one of the stagiest events available in London at the moment. Janie Dee tap dancing (without taps) and the final group performance of ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ (which was cut fromFollies though the music can be heard in the show’s ‘Prologue’) are two highlights in an hour filled with one-off performances. But On Reflection is also a celebration of friendship and love. Looking at the other performers whilst their colleague is on stage, it is heart-warming to see the support, care and pure joy written on their faces.   

It’s no wonder, as Dee jokingly suggests as the show begins, that none of them are quite able to let go of the National’s production: it has clearly meant a lot to every performer on stage. Each act brings on a picture that means a lot to them, and these are pinned at the back of the stage. Looking at the variety of backgrounds, experiences and memories, it’s difficult not to feel the formative importance of the past on the human beings standing on stage, which is, of course, the very point of Follies. For a fan of Sondheim or simply theatre in general, this is a fun hour that lets you see behind the curtain of some of the West End’s brightest stars, and it cannot come more highly recommended.


On Reflection is at the Underbelly (Spiegeltent) until 16th May.

Photograph: Johan Persson.

Anthony Walker-Cook is a PhD candidate at UCL. @AntWalker_Cook

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