A reunion is being held in a condemned and crumbling Broadway theatre of the chorus girls who performed there during the Weismann Follies era of thirty years earlier. The two central characters, Sally and Phyllis, chorus girls from the last year of the show, and their respective husbands – former stage-door Johnnies Buddy and Ben – intermingle with the older acts of that 23-year era. Long-buried emotions re-emerge in this nostalgic evening as Sally's feelings for Phyllis' husband Ben resurface and as the stars of the Weismann Follies get to sing their big numbers from years ago for one last time on the stage of their success.

So is the concept for Stephen Sondheim’s Follies, a show much revered but rarely revived – it needs a large staging and these are austere times. Craig Revel Horwood’s one-day, two-show production at the Royal Albert Hall gives it just that, with an all-star cast, sizeable chorus and the glorious sound of the 38-strong City of London Philharmonic Orchestra. However, the splendour of the venue doesn’t overshadow the central drama of the two couples and the emotional disentangling of their lives.

Simply staged, with four rectangular frames moving around the confines of the RAH stage – acting as dressing room mirrors and doors as required – this Follies is very much about reflection on the past, and ‘the road you didn’t take’, to borrow one of Sondheim’s telling lines. It even solved the enigma of Follies for me in previous productions – or maybe fuller appreciation has come with age – as I had always found the show’s apparently disjointed structure and intermingling of the action (which takes place on just one evening) with pastiches of popular songs from the period sung by the older acts rather confusing. Here they are brought into clear focus and delivered with style.

Lorna Luft's Hattie gives a well-stated rendition of ‘Broadway Baby’ that would surely have won the approval of her legendary mother. Grand Broadway dame Betty Buckley imbued every line of Carlotta Campion's 'I'm Still Here' with layers of meaning, demanding a mid first-act standing ovation. There are valiant turns from our own home-grown talent too, with reminders of the talents of the great Roy Hudd and Anita Harris. And Anita Dobson's Stella does a hilarious and well-acted tap-dancing turn (tightly choreographed by Andrew Wright) in ‘Who's That Woman’, staring at her younger self through the mirror.

Those echoes and reflections of the past haunt the main quartet too. Ruthie Henshall’s beautifully emotional Sally is torn between Peter Polycarpou’s Buddy – the salesman husband she has practically driven into having an affair – and Alexander Hanson's suave but married and unwilling-to-commit Ben. Henshall gets the best of a great bunch of tunes here too, with a reflective ‘In Buddy’s Eyes’ and a dramatic ‘Losing My Mind’, along with Ben and Sally's tear-inducing duet 'Too Many Mornings' with its heartbreaking lines ‘So much time wasted merely passing through – time I could have spent, so content, wasting time with you’. Christine Baranski’s Phyllis is less vocally secure, but wonderfully acerbic as a lady leading her own separate life, or is she?

A lengthier than usual first half packs in most of the intense drama, leading to a truly explosive argument between the four main protagonists, while the second half’s Loveland sequence reveals the true feelings of each of the four, as they are once more shadowed by ghosts of their younger selves. Of these, Amy Ellen Richardson is a beautifully understated Young Sally, full of the idealism of youth and a great contrast to the present, while Alistair Brammer’s earnest Young Ben battles with his older self.

This grand, one-off production of one of the truly great shows, the iconic Follies, at the Royal Albert Hall, delivers on every level. Musical maestro Gareth Valentine produces a sumptuous and glorious sound from the orchestra and it’s a real pleasure to hear those classic Sondheim numbers sung by such an illustrious cast. As the old emotions return on stage, so the audience are left to reflect on their own lives – and ‘those beautiful girls’.