Expect More From Professionals: A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC

© T Charles Erickson Photography

© T Charles Erickson Photography

Presented by Huntington Theatre Company
Music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick
Suggested by a film by Ingmar Bergman
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Stage directed by Peter DuBois
Music directed by Jonathan Mastro
Choreographed by Daniel Pelzig

Sept. 11 – Oct. 11, 2015
BU Theatre
Boston, MA
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Review by Kitty Drexel

(Boston, MA) If you haven’t been dead the past few months, then you’ve heard about Patti LuPone snatching a cell phone an unforgivably rude patron during a no doubt exceptional performance of Shows for Days. Her act is being lauded as bravery in the face of a horrendous etiquette breach. I agree. I also believe that theatre patrons should be shushed by managements for conversing during theatre performances. Rolled up newspapers or spray bottles would suit purposes very well.

An occasional comment or response is not only appropriate but welcomed by the cast (who appreciate knowing that the audience isn’t literally or figuratively dead). Entire whispered conversations a la a high school lunchroom are bad. The press night audience members of Huntington’s A Little Night Music were not recipients of the memo. They mistook Wednesday night’s performance for social hour. It frustrates me further as the people in attendance are considered a Who’s Who of Boston theatre and critique. For shame.

A Little Night Music is a musical about two mature adults with forthright, mature perspectives on sex and desire who take up with lovers who don’t share their sensibilities. Rather than come to a logical conclusion, Desiree (an enchanting Haydn Gwynne) invites the whole lot to their house in the countryside.  Despite the second act being a condensed replay of Chekhov’s The Seagull, things work out pretty well. Everyone drinks too much, dances too little and love wins in the end.

An almost sold-out crowd greeted the cast of A Little Night Music. On average, the night’s acting was superior to the singing. For example, the quintet ensemble’s diction was abysmal. Solos were understandable but the group sung numbers were impossible to decipher. This is in small part due to the strange mic-ing of the quintet (the balance for the five was off all evening) but it doesn’t excuse them from dropping their lyrics.

The leads, for their part, listened to each other well. Their mic-ing was under control and they were singing together rather than merely in the same space at the same time. The trio “Soon” featuring Anne (Morgan Kirner), Henrik (Pablo Torres), and Fredrik (a charming Stephen Bogardus) entered a light, heady space that was heavenly. The act one finale, “A Weekend in the Country” may have been an ear bursting wall of sound at the end but the lyrics were comprehensible.

Truly exceptional performances were delivered by Bobbie Steinback (Madame Armfeldt) and Lauren Molina (Countess Charlotte Malcom). Both attacked their roles with vim, vigor and excellent character work. Steinback is reminiscent of Maggie Smith’s dowager countess with a touch less propriety and a little more sass. Molina’s expressive range as an actress is equaled in her musical abilities. Both women were a joy to watch and hear.

Aside from the spotty diction, the only other snag came at the end of the musical. Madame Armfeldt’s death was comically obtuse. Her apropos of nothing slump was looked like a directorial afterthought. This is not what Ingmar Bergman would had wanted.

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