Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Directed by William Brown
Music Direction by Valerie Maze
At Writers’ Theatre, Glencoe
Elegant, charming, superbly sung intimate chamber operetta – A Little Night Music – unfolds as a sumptuous celebration of romance
Writers’ Theatre’s intimate space on Tudor Court in Glencoe is the perfect venue for Stephen Sondheim’s gem of a chamber operetta, A Little Night Music. With a cast of superb actors with gorgeous voices, director William Brown’s musical soars to the heavens. It is so refreshing to hear every word enunciated and sang so fully in character exuding all the wit, cynicism of 1900 Sweden without any amplification. Yes, it is possible to mount a musical without mics – but – it takes singers who can belt and project. This cast sure does – and – they produce wonderful harmonies and coral work as needed.
Stephen Sondheim’s 1973 musical–operetta really–A Little Night Music – won 6 Tony Awards yet it only played Broadway for 601 performances! With a smart, witty book and biting dialogue by Hugh Wheeler, A Little Night Music contains a lush, romantic waltz-time score by Sondheim. Based on the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night, the play is set in Sweden at the turn of the century.
We meet Madame Armfeldt (Deanna Dunagan) who tells her grand daughter Fredika (Shannon Corey) that the summer night “smiles” three times: first on the young, second on fools, and third on the old. Fredrika vows to try and watch the smiles occur. Next, comes Fredril Egerman (the commanding and golden voiced Jonathan Weir), a middle aged lawyer and his trophy wife–the 18 year old and still virgin Anne (Kristen French) with Henrik Egerman (Royen Kent)–the son who struggles with religion and lust.
Add Desiree Armsfeldt (the fabulous Shannon Cochran) lost love, rekindling romance and passion.
The costumes (by Rachel Anne Healy) on Kevin Depinet’s original set with Jesse Klugr’s lighting made a sensual atmosphere to a long Swedish summer night in the country. Sondheim’s eloquent score contains songs like “Remember,” “The Glamorous Life,” “A Weekend in the Country” and the signature tune “Send in the Clowns.” Jonathan Weir, Shannon Cochran, Brandon Daahlquist, Brianna Borger (as Petra) easily nailed their songs with aplomb and heart. I especially enjoyed the honest performance by Deanna Dunagan as the wise old grandmother. Brianna Borger, as Petra, delivers “The Miller’s Son” in a movingly emotional tone.
But, ultimately, A Little Night Music, is a most romantic chamber piece devoted to the awakened passions of the players as they evoke the harmonies of Sondheim’s waltz time score. Valerie Maze has her five member orchestra nimbly extolling the hauntingly beautiful score. The signature song, “Send In The Clowns’ (one of my all-time favorite show tunes) was marvelously sung by Shannon Cochran as she landed all the emotions, all the angst, and all the nuances of Sondheim’s appropriate lyrics. Cochran sent chills down my spine with her rich rendition.Where are the clowns?
Writers’ Theatre creative prowess and strong attention to production values gives their production of A Little Night Music the elegance and presence that exudes enough charm to warm the soul. Writers’ A Little Night Music is a major tour de force not only for Jonathan Weir but for the production itself. This may be the finest production of Sondheim’s chamber operetta yet to be mounted on a Chicago stage! This gorgeous work begs to be seen. You’ll not hear finer singing anywhere.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: May 10, 2012
For more info checkout the A Little Night Music page at theatreinchicago.com
At Writers’ Theatre. 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, IL, call 847-242-6000, www.writerstheatre.org, tickets $45 – $65, Tuesdays & Wednesdays at 7:30, Thursdays & Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 & 6 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through July 8, 2012