Tag: A Little Night Music
Taking into account the nearly 700 productions that we reviewed in 2012, here are our picks for the best of the best. Bravo!! (FYI: We’re honored to have the national website Huffington Post use our choices for their Top 10 Chicago productions here)
An impressive revival of Sondheim’s sex comedy classic
|Circle Theatre presents|
|A Little Night Music|
|Music/Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Directed by Bob Knuth
at Circle Theatre, Oak Park (map)
through June 5 | tickets: $22-$26 | more info
Reviewed by Oliver Sava
Stephen Sondheim’s musicals often contain an element of nostalgic regret, focusing on characters that look back on their muddled pasts in hopes of achieving, as A Little Night Music’s Desirée Armfeldt (Anita Hoffman) says, “A coherent future.” The aging artists of Follies, the fairy tales of Into The Woods, Sweeney Todd’s titular anti-hero – these are just a few of the composer’s characters that are faced with the consequences time brings, and A Little Night Music is one of the most chronology-focused musicals in Sondheim’s canon. Key words like “now,” “soon,” “later,” and “meanwhile” are repeated to emphasize the passage of time, unified by the inquisitive “remember” that sparks the characters’ trips down memory lane. The past, present, and future intersect in a delicate waltz, and Sondheim writes most of the show’s music in ¾ time, overlapping the melodic themes with his signature complexity and precision.
Bob Knuth’s staging is similar to Trevor Nunn’s recent Broadway revival, with a similarly clean, white-washed set design also from Knuth, and the production’s technical aspects have a similar level of polish. Elizabeth Powell Wislar’s costume design is particularly stunning, and these characters are dressed with the level of elegance and sophistication worthy of their status. Knuth assembles a cast that handles the difficult music especially well, layering the moving voice parts with a great sense of timing, and crisp articulation that is much appreciated during intense numbers like “Weekend in the Country” where multiple parts are being sung simultaneously. Desirée’s five actor companions serve as an observing chorus, and they begin the show with an overture that establishes the melodies that will be revisited throughout the show. In the temporal context of the show, the overture becomes more than just a collection of the show’s most memorable tunes, but rather plants seeds that will later be cultivated by the other actors in the ensemble.
This is a musical about relations – husbands and wives, parents and children, the young and the old – and despite the occasional instance of overacting, Knuth’s cast succeeds in building the character connections that are elevated by Sondheim’s rich music. Hoffman anchors the production with her captivating portrayal of Desirée, capturing the weariness that comes with the touring life and the desire to finally obtain a life of stability with her daughter Fredrika (Alicia Hurtado). When she reunites with her past lover Fredrik Egerman (Kirk Swenk), she sees an opportunity to finally have the life she dreams of, but Fredrik’s eighteen-year-old wife Anne (Stephanie Stockstill) stands in their way. Matters are further complicated by Desirée’s preexisting affair with an insanely jealous dragoon Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Jeremy W. Rill), whose destitute wife Charlotte (Deanna Boyd) tells Anne about Desirée’s affairs with both their husbands.
As Desirée’s partners, Swenk and Rill both showcase strong vocals, and there’s a clear contrast in their affection for Ms. Armfeldt. Fredrick genuinely longs for her on an emotional, whereas Malcolm desires her on a solely sexual level, and Rill gives Malcolm an exaggerated arrogance that works for the character, especially with his powerful singing. As his wife Charlotte, Boyd gives the character an appropriately dreary disposition, but she becomes too much of a caricature when her character breaks out of her depression. Stockstill’s Anne is delightfully naïve at the start of the show, still a child despite having been married for eleven months. The adorable flirtation between Anne and her step-son Henrik (Patrick Tierney) shows how innocent she is in comparison to women like the Egermans’ amorous maid Petra (Khaki Pixley), depicting an Anne who is anxious to explore her sexuality but not with her own aging husband.
Stockstill has a beautiful singing voice, and her duet with Boyd, “Everyday A Little Death” is a heartbreaking revelation that underneath the sexual comedy these are people in pain. Henrik is the play’s bleakest character, and Tierney does admirable work balancing the character’s jaded opinion of the world with a desire to find the kind of the love that he so publicly renounces. Tierney, along with Rill, has some of the most difficult music in the show, and while there are times that he could use some more support to stay on key, he does strong work with difficult material.
Fredrika and her grandmother Madame Armfeldt (Patti Roeder) represent the two ends of the time spectrum, as Madame lives in the past, while Fredrika is constantly looking toward the future. Roeder’s solo “Liaisons” could be considered the play’s theme, a meditation on how the affairs of her past have been grow more beautiful with age while the longing to return to them grows more painful. At the end of the play, Madame Armfeldt regrets turning away one of her lovers for giving her a wooden ring, lamenting the lost opportunity for true love. Desirée has a similar epiphany in “Send in the Clowns,” impeccably performed by Hoffman, where she finally exposes her true feelings to Fredrik before time passes them by again. After spending the play trying to recapture the past as a way to fix the present, she takes the leap into a future with Fredrik. When his responsibilities to Anne prevent him from jumping with her, Desirée ends the song with a defeated yet optimistic, “Maybe next year.” Time passes and things change. Things grow with time and they die with time. But perhaps the greatest power of time is the hope that the future brings, healing the wounds of the past and making the present an easier place to live.
All images by Bob Knuth.
I think this first-act finale is one of the finest writing Sondheim has every done. From A Little Night Music, here’s Beverly Lambert, Michel Maguire, Maureen Moore, Regina Resnik, Kevin Anderson, Susan Terry and Danielle Ferland - among other cast members – performing “A Weekend in the Country” at the Lincoln Center, 1990.
Comments of interest on YouTube:
I have probably never seen a more perfect performance of a Sondheim song. From her inflections to her noticing every assonance, every parallel, every nuance, especially the h of "horses" and "whores", as well as her glance shifting at "and I do". I’ve also never heard a more perfect delivery of the word "disgusting". All this with her voice & the subtlety of her expression, which is almost always fixed. Absolutely brilliant, and one of my favorite songs by the greatest songwriter of all time.
I…..believe that (Stephen Sondheim) being gay gives over to more sensitivities than straight men, especially when it comes to relationships with men. I don’t think that this discounts his intelligence or honesty. He is more perceptive to how it feels to be mistreated by a man than a straight man would be.
Sondheim is intelligent and honest, that’s why we he writes the way he does – NOT because he likes men. By your reasoning, all women should be able to write this way… so your statement is faulty.
I…disagree. Women and men can mistreat one another the same ways. But I believe Sondheim has actually not had much of a love life – he spoke about it very recently. For decades he was without a partner. One can learn enough [if not more] through friends and the understanding of human nature. And that’s why I mentioned his intelligence. If anything, that could be an attribute to his ability to present emotions the way he does. Most tend to shield their words.
I absolutely love the acappella section at 4-minutes. Take a listen!
Light Opera Works doesn’t disappoint with their foray into Sondheim’s Scandinavian twilight masterpiece
Reviewed by Richard Millward
Stephen Sondheim‘s A Little Night Music stands almost alone in the grand sweep of his works for musical theatre – though set in the perpetual twilight of a Scandinavian summer night, A Little Night Music is perhaps his lightest show. Far better known for “the shadows where, artistically at least, he has always felt most at home,” in the words of NY Times critic Ben Brantley, Sondheim here takes a less tragic, more bemused view of love and its foibles. Although ..Night Music starts with pairs of lovers – some mismatched, some not remembering why they matched in the first place – the romantic, waltz-based score leaves little doubt that come the night’s final turn about the ballroom floor, love will right all wrongs.
Seldom seen outside of opera houses due to the breadth and complexity of its score, A Little Night Music is now revived by Light Opera Works in Evanston through June 14. As audiences have come to expect from Light Opera Works, the quality of the production’s music make this a production well worth seeing. It is a delight to hear Jonathan Tunick‘s orchestration of some of Sondheim’s most memorable songs given a treatment at once lush and precise (through a 28-piece orchestra), under the baton of music director and conductor, Roger L. Bingaman. The demands of the vocal score, with its intricate harmonies and counterpoints, are a challenge to which this cast seem generally well-suited.
Almost without exception, the principals give strong, musically solid performances. The trio of “Soon,” “Now,” and “Later,” sung by Natalie Ford, Larry Adams, and Mike Reckling, the “Liasisons” of Judy Golman, and the quintet that act as a Greek chorus throughout were uniformly well-sung. Catherine Lord, as the actress Desiree Armfeldt, delivers the show’s “hit” song, “Send in the Clowns,” with subtlety and a heartbreaking, self-knowing regret. A singer cast in a role written for a non-singer, Miss Lord has vocal power to spare in delivering a “Send in the Clowns” you will not soon forget.
Only Jessye Wright, as the Countess Malcolm, and Megan Long, as the maid, Petra, fail to deliver in their solo turns. Although Miss Wright has some of the biting, self-deprecating wit her role requires, she unfortunately has been cast in a role unsuited to her singing voice, and she struggles to change registers in “Every Day a Little Death.” Miss Long’s “The Miller’s Son” is undermined by her brassy voice but perhaps more so by a tempo much slower than one would expect and some jarringly suggestive moves that conspired to render her number, always problematic in the flow of A Little Night Music’s book, a mood-deflecting speedbump so close to the denouement.
But these are minor faults in an evening in which one can experience the thrill of hearing a full chorus and orchestra set off on such an incredibly joyous “Weekend in the Country.” Mr. Sondheim may prefer the shadows, but his foray into the Scandinavian twilight remains a romantic masterpiece, and it is delivered by Light Opera Works with the loving musical care it deserves.
June 5 –14, 2009
At Cahn Auditorium – 600 Emerson, Evanston, IL
Pioneer Press: ‘Night Music’ a beloved tale for a reason