Songs from Musicals: #21, “One More Kiss,” from Follies

Honorable mentions: “Too Many Mornings,” “You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow/Love Will See Us Through”

I’ve already talked about Follies at some length on this blog, back before I started this little series. Then I was working with “Losing My Mind,” which is one of the key songs  from this musical, and which is not unlike “One More Kiss.” “Losing My Mind” could exist just about anywhere that solos are sold, though; it could have been thrown into Cats or onto some Barbra Streisand collection, or it could have wound up on the Goodfellas or Pulp Fiction soundtrack. “One More Kiss” is a better representation of the play itself, and its fabulous device. Follies loves to put the middle-aged, or older, characters on stage, while letting their more beautiful, more whole, more fulfilled younger selves cavort behind them or sing backup. That’s one of the reasons that I enjoy “You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow/Love Will See Us Through” as much as I do; aside from the fact that it’s the showtunes lyrics equivalent of Anita Brookner’s prose, that song is a portrait of reckless optimism, the pleasure that young people have in imagining something better for tomorrow, and the certainty that such a better tomorrow will come for them. It’s hard to think of a character in Follies for whom that isn’t true in some way, incidentally; virtually everyone ends up well-off, or at least not starving. It’s the appearance of the good ol’ days that shines a light on whatever it was that’s fueling midlife crises.

“One More Kiss” is one of those seemingly generic songs that could have sneaked into any nightclub in the intrawar years, a lullaby of a torch song that rocks back and forth as a vessel for a woman’s voice to ascend. As a solo this would doubtless be the case. As the aged singer (“Heidi”), formerly an operatic soprano, comes onto the stage, the technique is obviously still there, and the voice is not all gone, but it lacks glory. One can imagine how lovely the song would be if she were a much younger woman, but one does not need to wait all that long. Her younger double is the one who provides the radiance, and the song – literally about losing a lover – could hardly be about anything else but the two women, past and present, singing about herself. It is the younger one who has to caution the older one. “No backward glance,” she warns, “or my heart will break. Never look back.” Together, the two of them cry out that “All things beautiful must die.”

More than anyone else in Follies, Heidi screws the cap onto her past. Carlotta (played by Elaine Paige in the Kennedy Center production that I favor) can sort of laugh at what she used to be; Phyllis’ past is the lava for her volcano; Sally and her past are about as good a match as lemonade and toothpaste. Heidi chooses to give herself some closure, though, and when she does, she creates what may genuinely be the most affecting moment in the entire show.

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