The show begins as Olive (Rachel Fogle), newly arrived in New York from Pittsburgh, has the exceptional luck of being cast by none other than Florenz Ziegfeld (Michael Hayden). In short order, she begins an affair with the impresario -- then married to actress Billie Burke (Rachel York) -- which leads to her headlining alongside luminaries such as Fanny Brice (a winning Kimberly Faye Greenberg, who has previously played the role of the vaudeville star in another show).
While still in the Follies, Olive also begins a relationship with movie star Jack Pickford (Matt Leisy). The two ultimately marry, and she begins a new career on the screen. Both the marriage and film work prove unsatisfying for Olive -- although in the creators' sketchy book it's never clear why -- and her life ends in seeming suicide in 1920. (There are rumors that her ghost still haunts the New Amsterdam where the Follies were staged.)
The show's overcrammed first act, which runs close to two hours, features a host of clumsy pastiches of songs from the era, as well as unconvincing book songs that sound more contemporary. In the show's second act, Martin and Realbuto take the show to an existential realm as Olive is confronted by her friends, lovers and colleagues. It's like Funny Girl meets Sondheim's Follies.
Thankfully, the cast boasts such Broadway vets as the underutilized Daisy Eagan, who charms as a chorus girl who befriends Olive. Even more impressive are Hayden and York, whose rich vocals enliven the proceedings and who share a remarkably spiky chemistry even during the piece's most languorous moments.
-- Andy Propst