The last show of The Players' 101st season is "A Little Night Music". The show is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Hugh Wheeler. It was inspired by Ingmar Bergman's film "Smiles of a Summer Night" and involves the romantic lives of several couples. Its title is a literal English translation of the German name for Mozart's Serenade No. 13. "A Little Night Music" opened on Broadway on February 25, 1973, ran for 601 performances and won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award and Tony Award for Best Musical. A new Broadway production recently open in December, 2009 with Catherine Zeta-Jones as Desiree and Angela Lansbury as Madame Armfeldt. The musical is set in Sweden at the turn of the 20th century. With a smile on its lips, a flirtation in its eye and a sweet melancholy in its heart, the show waltzes into start of the last century with love. It shows the myriad forms of desire, from the tender blossoming of inexperience to the startled rekindling of long forgotten passion. It is centered on the lawyer Fredrik Egerman, blessed with an eighteen year old bride, an enchanting mistress and rivals in love, the plot ever thickening culminates in a weekend at a country chateau. And through the first night, the strands of love twine, catching each muddled human, forming new bonds. And the summer night smiles three times, first for the young, second for the fools and third for the old. Director Joan Dillenback casts the best 17 performers for these roles and obtains wonderful performances from them.
Joan blocks the show beautifully so you can see the performers at all times. She definitely knows how to direct a Sondheim show, blending the comic and dramatic moments beautifully. The show is a made up of waltzes so every song is in 3/4 time and the show starts with the wrong partners for the characters but by show's end each character is finally with their right partner. Musical director Stephen Decesare not only plays the piano for this show, he also taught the intricate Sondheim score to his talented cast. Lydia Matteson keeps thing running smoothly all night long both onstage and backstage. Diana Lucka-Ricci invents creative choreography for this show with "Weekend in the Country" as one of the standout numbers. Judy Bowden created all the gorgeous period costumes especially impressive are the women's gowns. Fredrick is married to Anne who in turn is enamored of his fully grown son, Henrik from a previous marriage. Finding himself playing a father figure rather than a husband, he is drawn back into the arms of ex-mistress Desiree Armfeldt, an aging actress who is currently the jealously-guarded property of Count Carl-Magnus, a pompous dragoon married to the long-suffering Charlotte who has a love-hate relationship with him yet aides and abets her husband in his not-so-clandestine affairs;Petra, the Egermans lusty maid starts out as Henrik's would-be teacher of love but ends up in the hay with Frid, a butler. Commenting on these proceeding is Desiree's elderly mother, who has had affairs with royalty ,her young granddaughter, Fredrika and a septet.
The septet is like a Greek chorus commenting on the events of the show in seven part harmony. The septet is excellently executed by Jay Miscia, Amy Thompson, Steven Dulude, Chris Maxwell, Holly Applegate, Donna Sullivan and Mel Shelly. They start off humming an overture and their stunning numbers include "Perpetual Anticipation", "Remember" and "The Sun Won't Set". Patricia Luca is Desiree and she gets to show off her lovely singing voice in "The Glamorous Life" and stops the show with her rendition of "Send in the Clowns". Patricia's funniest moment comes when the Count catches her with Fredrik and she returns with his pants and shirt soaking wet. Mark Gentsch is topnotch as Fredrik. He handles this much older character with ease. The trio of Now, Soon and Later is marvelous with Mark, Krysten Oates and Sam James. His duet numbers "You Must Meet My Wife" with Patricia is hilarious as is "It Would Have Been Wonderful" with Dennis. Krysten who is a pretty Strawberry blond, plays the naive young wife Anne wonderfully. Her soprano voice soars in her numbers. Sam plays Henrik, he has a strong tenor voice which blends wonderfully with Mark and Krysten in the trio number. He is only sixteen and is a junior at Classical High School. Dennis Bouchard is Carl Magnus the pompous boor who knocks your socks off with his "In Praise of Women". He is very funny as this chauvinistic pig. His long suffering wife is played excellently by Elizabeth Messier who shows off her voice in "Every Day a Little Death" about why she puts up with her boorish husband. She steals many scenes with her witty lines and delivery. Samantha Gaus is the hot to trot maid who likes to teach men about sex. Her song "The Miller's Son" stops the show with hilarity. Jan Grant plays Madame Armfeldt, this elderly woman watching the summer night smile on her daughter, She shows off her singing voice in "Liasons" about her many affairs. Brooke Friday who I first reviewed as Annie at Players in 2006, plays Desiree's daughter Fredrika. She shows off her beautiful singing voice in this show and is positively charming in this role. So for a wonderful musical treat, be sure to catch "A Little Night Music" before it waltz's out of town. To become a member of this theatre club be sure to call Lydia.