Monday, April 17, 2006

A Little Night Music (Kalliope Stage)

Kalliope Stage presents an acceptable ‘A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC’

Earlier this year Kalliope Stage opened its second season with an amazing production of the musical ‘SUMMER OF ‘42.’ Their present production of ‘A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC’ doesn’t live up to the ‘42 experience.

‘A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC,’ with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Hugh Wheeler is based on the Ingmar Bergman film “SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT.” The show originally opened on Broadway in 1973, with a cast which included Glynnis Johns in the lead role. It won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and the Tony Award for Best Musical. It was made into a less-than-successful movie starring Elizabeth Taylor.

‘A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC’ tells the story of a Fredrik Egerman an older lawyer who is married to a very young wife, Anne, who, despite the fact that they have been married almost a year, is still a virgin. An old flame, Desiree Armfeldt is appearing in a play at a local theatre. His romantic interest in her is rekindled when he and Anne attend the production. Desiree, who has an illegitimate daughter, is known for her liaisons. She is having an affair with a jealous and married military man, Carl-Magnus. Complicating matters is Egerman's divinity student son, Henrik, who is in love with his stepmother. The play culminates in a weekend at the country estate of Desiree's mother, Madame Armfeldt where everything turns out for the best.

Much of the show’s music is written in waltz (3/4) time which helps classify the work as an operetta rather than standard musical comedy. The operetta definition is furthered by the fact that the lyrics carry much of the play’s meanings. The score contains one of Sondheim's best-known songs, "Send in the Clowns," as well as "The Glamorous Life," "Every Day a Little Death," "Liaisons," "A Weekend in the Country" and "The Miller's Son."

Seindheim is noted for the complexity of his musical arrangements and requires cast members to sing his songs stressing the meaning of the words, not just mouthing lyrics. It is song interpretation that causes the Paul Gurgol-directed cast the most problem. Many of the cast sings word, not meanings, which results in the ideas being thrown away.

The KALLIOPE cast is uneven. The lead females are wonderful, while the males fail by comparison.

Marla Berg creates a clear characterization as Desiree Armfeldt. She has a fine singing voice and her rendition of “Send In the Clowns” is emotion-perfect! Kathleen Huber is very believable as Madame Armfeldt, but her solo “Liaisons” would have been more effective of it was sung or spoken with a musical cadence as Hermione Gingold did it on Broadway rather than spoken and ingnoring the music. Kimberly Koljat portrays well the role of Anne Egerman but the role should have been cast with a younger actress. Laurel Held Posey is youthfully right as Petra. Katrya Oransky-Petyk has a wonderful comedic flair which works well as Countess Malcolm. As the maid Petra, Laurel Held Posey displays a fine singing voice and a nice sense of comedy.

On the other hand, Frederick Hamilton is miscast as Fredrik Egerman. He is too young for the role, his characterization comes and goes, and he doesn’t interpret his songs well. The always delightful “You Must Meet My Wife,” fell flat. The same must be said for Tony Lehmenkuler who gives a less than stellar performance as Carl-Magnus. His “In Praise of Woman” was musically sung well, but with little attempt to create lyric meaning. Of the males, Brad Herbst came the closest to creating a meaningful character as the melancholy son, but his acting abilities fall short of making the character totally believable.

The vocal chorus, which acts as the narrator, was excellent. The musical accompaniment was much too shallow. The show needs a lush sound not capable of being produced by the few instruments used by musical director Brad Wyner.

Set designer Russ Borski continues to amaze in his ability to satisfy the needs of big shows placed on a postage-stamp sized stage. Borski and Aimee Kluiber’s costumes were awesome. This was the finest costumed show seen on local stages this year.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Kalliope’s “A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC’ is an acceptable, but not outstanding presentation thanks to some strong female performances and wonderful costume sand set design.