note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Beverly Creasey
Stephen Sondheim’s A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC has little to do with Mozart (except, perhaps, for the waltzes) and everything to do with Bergman. The Wheeler/Sondheim musical is based on Ingmar Bergman’s delightful (Yes, although most of his films are depressing, this one isn’t!) SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT.
Sweden, land of the midnight sun, gives rise, at least it does in the Vokes Theatre’s production, (running thru Nov. 17th) to a number of peculiar customs to ward off the boredom of endless days and endless nights. The first is brow kissing. Not forehead kissing. Come to think of it, just north of Sweden they rub noses so maybe it isn’t so strange after all to place affection just above the eye.
The second is an obsession with hair. Most of the Vokes women wear ponderous, formal wigs which sit quite low on their foreheads--- perhaps to cover a few wrinkles, who knows? And the men have wholeheartedly embraced the art of friseur. The quintet, for example, is extravagantly coifed. Evan Xenakis has a gorgeous tenor voice and just as impressive is his meticulously manicured beard (complete with waxed mustache) and baritone Edwin Fell sports equally dashing mutton chops. Craig Howard, as the pompous dragoon, has molded his hair into two angular wings taking flight from either side of his head, exactly matching the devilish arch of his brows. (Perhaps there is a “brow” theme at work.)
The third distraction is love, as in lovers, lots of lovers, to wile away the hours. Evidently in Sweden one is expected, even required, to take a lover. Every husband has a mistress or two. Even married women do it. And just like here, men marry women young enough to be their daughters--- which brings us to the story. A middle aged lawyer (with sensible grooming) has married a child bride who giggles and chirps and is beginning to try his patience. Jim Ansart is marvelous as the fraying, straying husband who rekindles romance with an old flame. Sheila Rehrig is just right as the glamorous actress heralded by the “Helsingborg Amateur Theatre Group.”
The most fun in director Maryann Swift’s production comes from the coupling and uncoupling of lovers ---and the farcical collisions of too many at once. The whistling duet for romantic rivals Ansart and Howard is one of the Vokes pleasures. Another is their exasperation duet, “It Would Have Been Wonderful (If she were old…and covered in mold)” praising, in the negative, the actress’ irresistible charms.
Patricia Till is a lovely Grand Dame, slyly understating her lucrative “Liasons.” Kristin Shoop is perfectly exasperating as the twittering virgin bride and Kristen Palson contributes strong vocals to Don Boronson’s music direction. But it’s Kimberly McClure who runs away with the show as the dragoon’s longsuffering wife. She gets the best song of the evening, “Every Day a Little Death” and the best scene, hilariously spoiling a formal dinner party at Stephen McGonagle’s stately manor house. Daniel Kozar’s period costumes, especially for McClure, are sumptuously chic.
It all ends, as you may have guessed, as the Swedish say, “Borta Bra Men Hemma Bäst.” Or as we say, “being away may be nice, but home is best.”