Review: ‘A Little Night Music’ (Light Opera Works)

Light Opera Works doesn’t disappoint with their foray into Sondheim’s Scandinavian twilight masterpiece

 

Catherine Lord (Désirée Armfeldt) and Larry Adams (Fredrik Egerman) are caught by Michael Cavalieri (Carl-Magnus Malcom) 

A Little Night Music
by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler
Light Opera Works

Reviewed by Richard Millward

Stephen Sondheim‘s A Little Night Music stands almost alone in the grand sweep of his works for musical theatre – though set in the perpetual twilight of a Scandinavian summer night, A Little Night Music is perhaps his lightest show. Far better known for “the shadows where, artistically at least, he has always felt most at home,” in the words of NY Times critic Ben Brantley, Sondheim here takes a less tragic, more bemused view of love and its foibles. Although ..Night Music starts with pairs of lovers – some mismatched, some not remembering why they matched in the first place – the romantic, waltz-based score leaves little doubt that come the night’s final turn about the ballroom floor, love will right all wrongs.

A Little Night Music 2 Seldom seen outside of opera houses due to the breadth and complexity of its score, A Little Night Music is now revived by Light Opera Works in Evanston through June 14. As audiences have come to expect from Light Opera Works, the quality of the production’s music make this a production well worth seeing. It is a delight to hear Jonathan Tunick‘s orchestration of some of Sondheim’s most memorable songs given a treatment at once lush and precise (through a 28-piece orchestra), under the baton of music director and conductor, Roger L. Bingaman. The demands of the vocal score, with its intricate harmonies and counterpoints, are a challenge to which this cast seem generally well-suited.

Almost without exception, the principals give strong, musically solid performances. The trio of “Soon,” “Now,” and “Later,” sung by Natalie Ford, Larry Adams, and Mike Reckling, the “Liasisons” of Judy Golman, and the quintet that act as a Greek chorus throughout were uniformly well-sung. Catherine Lord, as the actress Desiree Armfeldt, delivers the show’s “hit” song, “Send in the Clowns,” with subtlety and a heartbreaking, self-knowing regret. A singer cast in a role written for a non-singer, Miss Lord has vocal power to spare in delivering a “Send in the Clowns” you will not soon forget.

A Little Night Music 3 Only Jessye Wright, as the Countess Malcolm, and Megan Long, as the maid, Petra, fail to deliver in their solo turns. Although Miss Wright has some of the biting, self-deprecating wit her role requires, she unfortunately has been cast in a role unsuited to her singing voice, and she struggles to change registers in “Every Day a Little Death.” Miss Long’s “The Miller’s Son” is undermined by her brassy voice but perhaps more so by a tempo much slower than one would expect and some jarringly suggestive moves that conspired to render her number, always problematic in the flow of A Little Night Music’s book, a mood-deflecting speedbump so close to the denouement.

But these are minor faults in an evening in which one can experience the thrill of hearing a full chorus and orchestra set off on such an incredibly joyous “Weekend in the Country.” Mr. Sondheim may prefer the shadows, but his foray into the Scandinavian twilight remains a romantic masterpiece, and it is delivered by Light Opera Works with the loving musical care it deserves.

Rating: «««½

June 5 –14, 2009
At Cahn Auditorium – 600 Emerson, Evanston, IL

Additional reviews:

Pioneer Press: ‘Night Music’ a beloved tale for a reason

One Response

  1. […] Opera Works‘ highly-recommended Stephen Sondheim show, A Little Night Music (read our review here), I thought it would be poignant/fun to feature the rarely-performed song “Liaisons”, […]

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