Broadway musicals and certain names go hand in hand…Rodgers and Hammerstein, Patti LuPone, Angela Lansbury, and of course, Stephen Sondheim. While it’s always great to see newer musicals thrive, such as WICKED and RENT, it’s just as good to see the classics revived. Such is the case with the Dramateurs’ production of the Tony Award winning A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, best known for the beautiful “Send in the Clowns.”
Directed by Steve Arcidiacono, with musical direction by Diane Blum, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC is definitely not the easiest to sing. A full 22-member orchestra accompanies the performers. It features many high pitches and quite a few harmonic pieces, beginning right away with the five Liebeslieder singers. Madame Armfeldt (Julie May) is then introduced, who has been acting as the guardian of her granddaughter, Fredrika (Kira Clements), while her mother, Desiree (Lauren Kerstetter), is away in a play. Anne (Diana Allen) is married to Fredrik (Paul Laich), a much older gentleman, but his son, Henrik (Phillip Haggerty), is hopelessly in love with her. Desiree and Fredrik are ex-loves, but they still have feelings for each other. She, however, is having a dalliance with Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Chris Exley), who is married to Charlotte (Sue Murphy). Petra (Kit Niesen) is Anne’s maid who is always up for a little “fun.” Talk about a tangled web.
At the beginning of this production, I felt that the performers seemed a little unsure of themselves (opening night jitters?), but they quickly grew into their own and delivered some strong performances. Kerstetter’s emotive acting is top-notch, particularly in “You Must Meet My Wife”, a funny repartee with Fredrik where she shows her jealousy. And, of course, “Send in the Clowns” is beautiful…more so when she sings it with Laich than by herself. Haggerty gives one of the most enjoyable performances I’ve seen all year. His very natural but quirky style, with excellent reactive acting, gives Henrik an endearing quality. Murphy should have a side job as a comedian, as her incredibly dry delivery of Charlotte’s lines adds so much humor to a musical that can often seem dated. Allen has a gorgeous voice but needs to reign in the screaming a little bit. The role of Anne doesn’t need to go over the top. May is delightfully hilarious, especially in the pretty-as-a-picture picnic scene.
Perhaps it was because I was in the fourth row and looking up, but the Scotch tape on the microphones was very distracting. This is especially true when the tape wouldn’t stick on a performer’s cheek and was coming off. Don’t tarnish a beautiful production that’s set in Sweden in the early 1900s with Scotch tape! Stage makeup may have helped to cover this flaw.
This is one of the best productions I’ve seen for transitions. They are absolutely seamless, with everyone working together to change the scenes. For an opening night, this is to be commended.
A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC is the perfect ending to a perfect summer.
A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Steve Arcidiacono
August 24 – September 8, 2012
The Dramateurs, Inc.
at The Barn Playhouse
1600 Christopher St
Jeffersonville, PA 19403
Nicely written and informative review. thanks..
Glad you mentioned that wonderful 22 member orchestra! I went to this show last Sunday and part of the joy of this great production was hearing Sondheim without a synthesizer! These days, the only place you can actually enjoy Sondheim with a full orchestra is in an excellent community theater production like this one.
Try seeing a Sondheim production or revival on Broadway and you won’t be hearing the misplaced toots and off-key blares of the inadequate orchestra for this production.