As part of the salute to Sondheim, a series of events at the Pasadena Playhouse, we were treated to A Little Night Music, which features a book by Hugh Wheeler, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and is suggested by a 1955 film by Ingmar Bergman, Smiles of a Summer Night.
By Carol Edger Germain
At the Pasadena Playhouse, the production was directed by David Lee, with choreography by Mark Esposito and musical supervision by Darryl Archibald. The cast and crew gave us a rollicking good time following the twists and turns of love, loyalty, and lack thereof as displayed and experienced by the various lovers and players who wove their tangled webs throughout the evening. It was a dynamic and quite capable ensemble presenting the musically and emotionally complicated story.
Since this was my first time seeing the play, with no prior knowledge of the entire story, I must admit I was a bit anxious for the betrayals and dishonesty so comically and frivolously presented to somehow have a thoughtful and positive resolution. I was reassured and a little relieved to see that “all’s well that ends well,” and the characters managed to ebb and flow in sync. The songs were witty and explanatory, and all vocal performances were strong and evenly balanced, entertaining us while dropping hints of plot twists to come.
Merle Dandridge, quite easily the standout performance of the evening, fills the stage with her presentation of Desiree Armfeldt, the actress desired and followed by more than one of the male characters. All of the characters weave through the story of love, lies, and lust, experiencing everything positive and negative about love, ever seeking that perfect bliss with that perfect lover, not always concerned with the ramifications of their actions. Desiree dreams of recreating and continuing the connection she had with Fredrik Egerman (Michael Hayden), in spite of his marriage to a bride younger than his son [his 18-year-old wife Anne (Kaley Ann Voorhees)], and her sticky, complicated relationship with Count Carl-Magnus Marcum (Ryan Silverman), whose embittered wife, Charlotte (Sarah Uriarte Berry) cooks up an entertaining plan to resolve the issues in her favor.
Desiree’s mom, Madame Armfeldt (Jodi Long), whose sordid past and predictions provide her many opportunities to interject droll observations and advice, was a spark throughout the performance. Ruby Lewis as the Egermans’ maid, entertainingly makes the most of her character and is quite enjoyable to watch. Her romp in the hay with the delectable manservant Frid (Adam James King), catches our attention and allows her to launch into her very adept musical interpretation of her intention to live life to the fullest before settling down.
Meanwhile, Fredrick’s son, Henrik (Chase Del Rey) plods toward his religious study goals with hopes of saving the souls of these misguided characters stricken with the inability to focus and be decent, honest, and capable of true love, and he vocalizes that observation quite dramatically. Meanwhile the intentions and realizations and clarity keep coming and we enjoy the ride. A most poignant moment is when Desiree sings “Send in the Clowns.” We’ve all heard it by various artists, but her interpretation is stellar and easily inspires the audience to join her journey of truth and realization. As I mentioned before, “all’s well that ends well,” and it’s a joy to watch the final resolution of each player’s situation, leaving us quite satisfied.
A Little Night Music Extended until Sunday, May 28, 2023 Tuesday-Friday evenings at 8:00 p.m. Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 pm; Sunday at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Location Pasadena Playhouse 39 South El Molino Avenue Pasadena, CA 91101 Tickets PasadenaPlayhouse.org; by phone at 626-356-7529.
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