By Sue Morgan
With amusing and sometimes moving lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim, a charming book by Hugh Wheeler and an outstanding cast of Bay Area actors, A Little Night Music at Spreckels Performing Arts Center is regional theatre is at its best. The play is a rarity in that it’s a musical stage adaptation of a film, Ingmar Bergmann’s Smiles of a Summer Night.
At the dawn of the 20th century, Fredrik Egerman (Larry Williams) a previously widowed middle-aged attorney, has married lovely virginal 18-year-old Anne, (Brenna Sammon). Anne loves to tease Egerman’s earnest 20-year-old son, Henrik, (Samuel J. Gleason) a seminary student who wrestles with a secret passion for Anne, who has, eleven months after her nuptials, still not consummated her marriage to Henrik’s father.
Sexually frustrated, Fredrik seeks relief in the arms of old flame Desiree Armfeldt, (Daniela Innocenti-Beem) a once-renowned actress, who by chance is performing in Fredrik and Anne’s Swedish town, and has carried a torch for Fredrik for years. The lovers are interrupted by Desiree’s married lover, Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Michael Coury Murdock) whose wife, Countess Charlotte Malcolm (Taylor Bartolucci) knows of the affair and is desperate to regain her husband’s affections. Such are the tropes of multi-layered unrequited love, catalyst for both hilarity and poignancy in this effervescent production.
…spirited, professional and upbeat performances…
With the exception of Murdock’s full-throated Count Malcolm, whose “In Praise of Women” was wonderfully rendered, the ladies of the cast outshine the men in terms of vocal talent. Molly Belle Hart was perfectly cast as young Fredrika Armfeldt, daughter of Desiree and granddaughter of Madame Armfeldt (Eileen Morris). Hart’s rendition of “The Glamorous Life” was sung with the poise and professionalism of a much older performer. Morris’s solo “Liasons” managed to be both enchanting and amusing, conveying yearning for what had been and a sense of satisfaction in a life well-lived. Brenna Sammon’s “Soon” was plaintive and lovely.
There were two showstoppers during the opening night performance. The first was “Send in the Clowns,” which held the audience rapt throughout, performed with perfectly understated virtuosity by the stunningly talented Daniela Innocenti-Beem, who also gave the best performance overall throughout the production. Her Desiree offered a master class in theatrical expression and nuance. The second was “The Miller’s Son,” performed with power and a sense of unbridled joy by Kaela Mariano, who played Petra, Anne’s delightfully libidinous maid.
There were some sound issues during the beginning of the play, with the orchestra overwhelming the vocals as some of the performer’s mics appeared to be working only sporadically. The performers soldiered on professionally, however, and the problems were soon rectified.
Costumes by Donnie Frank were delightful, beautifully depicting the height of elegance in the early 1900s. The set was not such a delight, changing only in terms of props and lighting. Having the same backdrop throughout, despite whether the action was inside or out, with the same paintings hanging on every character’s wall. This seemed a bit too laissez faire.
Overall, Director Sheri Lee Miller elicited spirited, professional and upbeat performances from her talented and well-chosen cast, gifting her audience with an immensely enjoyable evening of entertainment.
Contributing Writer Sue Morgan is a literature-and-theater enthusiast in Sonoma County’s Russian River region. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Production||A Little Night Music|
|Music/Lyrics by -- Book by||Stephen Sondheim --Hugh Wheeler|
|Directed by||Sheri Lee Miller|
|Producing Company||Spreckels Performing Arts|
|Production Dates||Through Feb 26th, 2023|
|Production Address||Spreckels Performing Arts Center
5409 Snyder Lane
Rohnert Park, CA 94928
|Tickets||$12 - $36|
|Reviewer Score||Max in each category is 5/5|
|Aisle Seat Review Pick?||YES!|