Metro-Stage Company's current show is "A Little Night Music" which 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. The 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 opened last December with Catherine Zeta-Jones as Desiree and Angela Lansbury as Madame Armfeldt. Zeta-Jones won the Tony Award for her role. 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 the 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 Maryann Zschau casts the best 14 performers for these roles and obtains outstanding performances from them. The show is rewarded with a standing ovation at curtain call.
Maryann blocks the show splendidly 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. Maryann makes her Boston directorial debut with this show, having directed numerous productions elsewhere in the state. The show is made up of waltzes so every song is in 3/4 time and the show starts off with the wrong partners for the characters but by show's end each character is finally with their right partner. Musical director Maria Duhaime not only plays the piano for this show but she taught the intricate Sondheim score to her talented cast and directs a fantastic 5 piece orchestra. Rachel Bertone invents creative choreography for this show with the waltzes which open and close the show and "Weekend in the Country" as one of the standout numbers. Stage manager Julia Dibernardo keeps things running smoothly all night long. Neil Fortin created all the gorgeous period costumes especially impressive are the women's gowns and the inventive set design is by Kamilla Kurmanbekova. A brief synopsis of the show is necessary for those unfamiliar with it. 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 Egerman's 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 proceedings is Desiree's elderly mother, who has had affairs with royalty, Desiree's young daughter, Fredrika and a quintet.
The quintet is like a Greek chorus commenting on the events of the show in five part harmony. These five people execute their numbers splendidly. They start off humming the overture and their stunning numbers include "Perpetual Anticipation", "Remember" and "The Sun Won't Set". Their harmonies soar throughout the show. The quintet consists of mezzo-soprano, Alexandra Dietrich, tenor, Scott Keenan, soprano, Kathryn McKellar, alto,Jaime Steinbach and baritone,Gary Ryan who also plays Frid the butler. The quintet also move the set pieces on and offstage. Tracy Nygard who looks like a young Zeta-Jones, is spectacular as Desiree. She not only has the beauty for this role but has the acting and singing ability to carry off this demanding role,too. Tracy shows off her lovely singing voice in "The Glamorous Life" and stops the show with her rendition of "Send in the Clowns" which leaves her and you in tears. She has proven she can handle dramatic roles in "Man of La Mancha" and "Sorry Wrong Number" but shows off her comic side with the many sexual innuendos in this show and her funny comments during "You Must Meet My Wife". Tracy's funniest moment occurs when she returns Fredrik's pants and shirt soaking wet after the Count catches them together. Tracy and Jim are much better than Glynis Johns and Len Cariou who I saw in the original show back in 1974. Her leading man, Jim Fitzpatrick who also played Don Quixote opposite her Aldonza, is marvelous as Fredrik. He plays the suave and debonair character perfectly and has an excellent baritone voice. The trio of "Now", "Soon" and "Later" is fantastic with wonderful counterpoint singing by Jim, Joelle Kross as Anne and John Koons as Henrik. His duet numbers "You Must Meet My Wife" with Tracy is hilarious as is "It Would Have Been Wonderful" with Robert Case. Jim and Tracy make their finale number sweet and poignant, a fitting way to end this show.
Joelle who is a pretty Strawberry blond, plays the naive young wife beautifully. Her gorgeous soprano voice soars off the charts in her numbers. She captures the capricious woman with ease and shows her steely determination later in the show. John has a phenomenal tenor voice which blends excellently with Jim and Joelle in the trio number. Henrik is stoic at first then lets loose later in the show with abandon. Joelle and John's voices are topnotch in their solo lines in the group numbers, too. Their best scene comes in their romantic scene when they decide to run off together. Robert Case is terrific as Count Carl-Magnus. The character is a pompous boor and Robert knocks your socks off with his "In Praise of Women" with his powerful tenor voice. He garners many laughs as this chauvinistic pig. His long suffering wife, Charlotte, is splendidly played by Shana Dirik, a stunning redhead who I recently reviewed as Mother Superior in "Nunsense". Shana shows off her fantastic voice in the emotion packed "Every Day a Little Death" about why she puts up with her husband's boorish behavior. She steals many scenes with her witty lines and delivery. Shana is very funny as she eggs Anne on to put one over on Desiree. Mary O'Donnell is topnotch as the elderly Madame Armfeldt. She reprimands Desiree for her bad behavior, has tender scenes with her granddaughter and delivers caustic comments in the second act during the party scene. Mary delivers a wonderful rendition of "Liasons" as she sings of the many affairs she has had during her lifetime. Mary is much younger than Lenora Armfeldt. One of her funny lines to her granddaughter is "All Scandinavians are insane". Lenni Kmiec, a statuesque brunette, plays the hot to trot maid, Petra. Her song "The Miller's Son" stops the show with it's hilarity. She sings about enjoying what life has to give her while she can. Isabelle Miller who I first reviewed as Annie for Reagle Players in 2008 plays Desiree's daughter, Fredrika. She shows off her fabulous singing voice in this show and is positively charming in this ingenue role. She just turned 13 on October 17. So for a magnificent musical treat, be sure to catch Metro Stage Company's "A Little Night Music" before it waltz's out of town. Tell them Tony sent you.