note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Sheila Barth
I hope you saw Metro Stage’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s 1973 multi-award winning, oft-revived, musical, “A Little Night Music,” during its brief run last week at the Cambridge Family YMCA Theater in Cambridge.
Director Maryann Zschau, an award-winning actress in her own right, amassed a fabulous professional cast and musicians who collectively whisked away the revived production’s three hours with levity, romance, and memorable music.
A five-piece Greek chorus, or Liebeslieders, composed of Alexandra Dietrich, Scott Keenan, Kathyrn McKellar, Jaime Steinbach and Gary Ryan, (who doubles as Mme. Armfeldt’s manservant, Frid), fill in the story’s blanks, moving it seamlessly from scene to scene.
Lenni Kmiec as Petra, Frid’s new love and Fredrik Egerman’s maidservant, adds sauciness and naughtiness. She especially shines in her solo, “The Miller’s Son”.
Besides Zschau’s eagle-eyed direction, Neil Fortin’s 1900’s costumes are gorgeously definitive of each character. James Fitzpatrick as successful, middle-aged lawyer, Fredrik Egerman, is gentlemanly and privileged; while his lanky, self-deprecating, unsure 20-year-old son, Hendrik,(John Coons) wears a clerical collar, with his ill-fitting clothes, insisting he’s entering the seminary, thereby hoping to hide his awkwardness and his adoration of his virgin stepmother of 11 months, Anne. “It’s intolerable being tolerated,” he sings, frustrated.
Anne Egerman, (Joelle Cross), Fredrik’s pretty, petite 18-year-old trophy bride, is flighty, childlike more concerned about her pretty, lacy dresses, and fearful of consummating her marriage. She’s a sharp contrast to her romantic foil, Fredrik’s longtime, flamboyant actress-lover, Desiree Armfeldt, whom veteran actress Tracy Nygard portrays with style.
Although Desiree’s life appears glamorous to her fans and admirers, she laments touring, traveling, and traipsing around in “The Glamorous Life”.
In the second act, Nygard delivers a heartfelt rendition of the show’s most famous song, “Send in the Clowns,” that had many theatergoers in tears.
Desiree’s young daughter, Fredrika, is appropriately attired in young girl’s frocks. Pretty Isabelle Miller, (who turned 13 years old on Oct. 17), charmingly portrays Fredrika, with poise, a wink, and air of innocence.
Actress Shana Dirik is pivotal and prominently delightful as Charlotte, wise-cracking, ignored wife of pompous dragoon, Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Robert Case). He has “a brain the size of a pea,” and is having an affair with Desiree. Despite her showy outfits and makeup, Charlotte is overlooked by the Count, who struts around in his epaulets, brass buttons, sash, and other military regalia.
Regretting her lost romantic liaisons, choosing money over love, is Desiree’s elegantly clothed mother, Madame Armfeldt, whom Mary O’Donnell portrays with a fine balance of wisdom and sarcasm. Unfortunately, the six-piece orchestra, led by Maria Duaime, couldn’t adjust to O’Donnell’s vocal range during her solo, “Liaisons,” causing her to sing in a range that was too low for her. Overall, though, the orchestra was superb.
The sparse stage, save a few lacy-designed, symbolic triangles that the actors continuously moved about as props, enabled the entire ensemble to sing and dance freely during numbers choreographed by Rachel Bertone.
And the cast admirably performed Sondheim’s difficult melodies, while they explored each character’s flaws, strengths, innuendos, quirks, interactions and convoluted relationships. A few theatergoers said they never understood the significance of the lyrics or some scenes, but at Metro Stage, the plot was clear. There was no need to “Send in the Clowns”.
For more information about Metro Stage, visit www.metrostagecompany.com.