BAILLARGEON INTERVIEW CONT.
song is a poignant lament of faded youth and love lost, but Heidi knows
the grief will pass. "One more kiss before we part, not with tears or
sigh. All things beautiful must die." Baillargeon hears hope in these
lyrics. "We all have to let go of the past in order to move forward," he
says, "there's always another road to take." It's an unusually
optimistic view to take of a show so full of regret and heartbreak, but
it's the message Baillargeon thinks the audience will take home with
them. "All of the characters are changed by the end of the show. They
finally shed their younger selves to make room for who they've become
and start to make new choices. And that's the point, I think. As long as
you're alive, you have a choice."
Potent emotional content is not new for this versatile director/actor/producer whose directorial credits include Next to Normal and Sweeney Todd along with more traditional musical comedy. In 2011 he brought the riotously funny The Drowsy Chaperone
to the Concord Players' stage, garnering 13 DASH award nominations and 4
wins, including best leading actor in a musical for his talented
husband, David Berti.
Directing Follies will be a welcome challenge for this Sondheim devotee. His very first role was Bobby, in the composer's Company.
That performance gave him a special appreciation for Sondheim's mastery
as a lyricist. "With a playwright, every word is sacrosanct," he
explains. "With Sondheim the music and patter of the lyric leave no
question about the character's intention." This is especially important
in Follies, where the characters are quite literally appraising the narrative of their lives with words and music.
Donnie's sensitivity to Sondheim's lyrical precision informed his casting for Follies.
"It was a little scary at first," he recalls, "the show hasn't been
done in community theatre for a long time so a big buzz developed about
the auditions." That buzz resulted in over 85 of the region's finest
actors showing up to try out. And how does he know who's right for the
"Mostly instinct," he says, and a response to what they bring to the character when they
on the boards. Sometimes it's instantly clear, as in the case with
Kathy Lague, who has been cast in the part of Heidi. Donnie remembers,
"she came out and sang with such a clear, clarion, enunciated sound. It
brought me to tears."
After casting, the process is organic; a collaboration between director
and players until the vision is fulfilled. Who's vision? Mostly his, but
adapted and evolving as the characters develop and the story unfolds.
One of the reasons he moved from acting to directing is the expanded
artistic control. There might be more meat in the acting, but when
directing you can decide on all the courses.
He'll be able to design a feast for the Players' production of Follies.
"I love working with The Concord Players," he says. " It's not just
that the people who work here are all seasoned professionals, the
audiences are cultured, educated and sophisticated. It's satisfying to
create a production for an audience who will appreciate it so broadly."
The cordial, socially relaxed Baillargeon becomes intensely
passionate when talking about theatre: the art of it, the work of it,
and myriad emotions evoked by it. It is clear he will infuse that
passion into this production of Follies, one of Sondheim's most formidable works. Of course he will. It chose him.
runs November 6-21. Tickets will go on sale early fall. Don't want to
wait? Get a subscription and choose the best seats for the season.