“Sometimes I stand in the middle of the floor” … With the National’s highly anticipated production of Follies (Dominic Cooke directing a cast of 37 and an orchestra of 21, lest you forget) about to start previews, I thought I’d listen to about a hundred different versions of perhaps its most famous song – Losing My Mind – and try and decide on a top ten, with the assumption of course that whatever Imelda Staunton will do with the song will be completely, utterly, life-changingly extraordinary (no pressure Meldz).
1. Marin Mazzie – I may as well start off being controversial but this is my absolute favourite version of the song. Taken from Sondheim’s 80th birthday party filmed live at Avery Fisher Hall, New York City in March 2010, it is just spell-binding. The purity of her performance, the way she lets her voice crack towards the end, those two tear-jerking breaths as the song finishes, sheer perfection. Also, find yourself someone who looks at you the way Donna Murphy looks at Mazzie at 4.07 #lifegoals
2. Barbara Cook – A choice made all the more poignant by Cook’s passing last week, this rendition comes from the 1985 recording at the Lincoln Centre where she played Sally in a staged concert. Cook manages the not-inconsiderable feat of making her impassioned interpretation seem entirely effortless, her shimmering soprano flowing with beautiful emotion. 3 Julia McKenzieLondon’s original Sally, McKenzie played the role at the Shaftesbury Theatre and was nominated for an Olivier (losing to Nichola McAuliffe for Kiss Me Kate). The fullness of her tone creates a much richer sound to the song which is, well, just lovely. Check out this live version too. 4 Liza MinnelliLiza.The Pet Shop Boys.Those dance moves.What more could you ask for? I either want to walk down the aisle to this or have it played as my coffin goes into the flames. 5 Maria FriedmanFriedman is surely one of our finest interpreters of Sondheim’s work but I don’t think she has ever had the opportunity to play Sally. Fortunately for us, she has tackled this song in concert and here she nails it, with the brilliant Jason Carr on piano. 6 Tim CurryA rare male version (for this list at least). You might find stronger voices but none with this much charisma oozing from every line. 7 Charlotte PageTaken from the 2013 Opéra de Toulon production, which was conveniently recorded for posterity, the relatively unheralded Page offers up some powerhouse emotion which is thrillingly melodramatic (plus David Charles Abell’s band sound amazing here). 8 Jeremy JordanA much freer interpretation than most of the others and in Jordan’s delectable hands, it is dreamy indeed. 9 Ute LemperUte’s version from her City of Strangers album also makes it on for the audacity of Bruno Fontaine’s jazz arrangement, perfectly suited to the inimitable voice of this most superlative of interpreters. 10 Bernadette PetersLove her or hate her, Peters’ relationship with Sondheim is unquestionable and the way in which she wrestles with the song here in compelling, especially in the anger of the final lines which suddenly dissipates into something exquisitely heavenly with its floated final note. Bonus mentionsSpeaking of final notes, Rebecca Caine’s here is a thing of real beauty. and I was lucky enough to see it live at this 80th birthday concert at the King’s Head. Another version for which I have great affection as I heard it live, Ruthie Henshall played Sally at the Royal Albert Hall in 2015 and though this is rehearsal footage, her voice still sounds glorious. And last but by no means least, Dorothy Collins’ classic version from the first ever production of Follies in 1971 has the beauty of being the closest to Sondheim’s original vision. (and interestingly, you see just how strong the songwriting is that it has endured so strongly in the 40 plus years since it was written). So over to you Imelda, what delights will you offer up…(c) Johan Persson