Review of A Little Night Music
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Inspired by a film by Ingmar Bergman
Directed by James D. Sasser
Music Direction by Craig Burdette
Choreography by Staci Arriaga
Lucky Penny Productions
For tickets / schedule :
Lucky Penny Community Arts Center, Napa
RUN: January 27 – February 12, 2017
RATING: 3 of 5 stars
(January 27, 2017)
In the tradition of tangled romantic comedies that miraculously create perfect endings for each couple, this adorable musical may seem a trifle dusty to modern audiences, which adds to its vintage charm. Rather like a maypole of bright ribbons, lovers are interwoven with each other in varying degrees of happiness and misery, yearning for others, and dissatisfied with their lot, despite lovely surroundings and attentive servants. Through accidental circumstances and deliberate subterfuge, the knots are unwoven and carefully tied into ideal little bows of romantic bliss, interspersed with ditties and laments. While the music does not create standouts, it is always delightful, with the amusing duet “You Must Meet My Wife”, ensemble piece “A Weekend in the Country”, and flirtatious “The Miller’s Son”.
James D. Sasser and Barry Martin’s set design rotates to fully engage each side of the stage, with tattered purple drapes reminiscent of wedding décor fluttering overhead. Taylor Bartolucci’s props make each location instantly recognizable, while keeping a minimalist feel that does not involve extensive scenery changes, so the play flows well without lengthy transitions. There are some odd choices in placement and direction, causing actors to perform with their backs to the audience, which hampers the drama and without better microphones often renders them unintelligible beneath the musicians, particularly Katie Motter’s Anne Egerman. Pianist Craig Burdette and cellist Ami Nashimoto were lovely accompaniment, even if the sound balance was off, and their vitality was a highlight of the musical.
This ensemble has sparkling chemistry, from flippant barbs to unrequited love. While over-the-top farce and more traditional musical comedy styles need to find a more universal tone across the ensemble, overall they worked well together. Sasser’s lawyer Frederik Egerman portrays a midlife identity crisis as he is torn between the young man he was and the person he has become. Ellen Brooks’ Madame Armfeldt is the grandmother you always wanted, with deliciously suggestive stories, a penchant for cards, and dash of the dreamer. Her protégé Fredrika (Charlotte Kearns) captivates with every entrance, while maintaining a Victorian sense of manners and presence. Wickedly sharp-tongued with one liners that would make James Bond jealous, Jenny Veilleux as Countess Charlotte Malcolm cut well with her delivery and expressions. Desirée Armfeldt (Dyan McBride) combines raw sex appeal with a genuine desire to be deeply loved by a stable family, and is willing to risk opening her heart to gain that ideal with the wistful song “Send in the Clowns”. Robert Francis’ Henrik Egerman gathered laughter with his melodramatic pain of secret passion and physical comedy.
A Little Night Music is like opening a box of different flavored petits fours and trying them one after another; it is light and fluffy with occasional darker themes that leaves you entertained and in a pleasant mood, ready to believe the best of the world when it comes to love conquering all.