‘A Little Night Music’ Review: A Rueful Take at Barrington Stage

Pittsfield, Massachusetts — I thought I’d seen everything possible in Little Night Music, a little-improved 1973 musical by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler.However Bittersweet revival of Barrington Stage Companyopened here on Wednesday ends the first act with a particularly clever touch. As the principals come forward for the final chorus of “A Weekend in the Country,” each carrying an admittedly slightly silly personal luggage item in anticipation of their next visit to the grand estate .

Count Carl Magnus Malcolm, the peacock of the army, carries a massive hunting bow over his shoulders, suitable for stalking prey or romantic rivals. Anne Egerman, an 18-year-old virgin married to Fredrick, a stuffy middle-aged widow, has a birdcage. (She’s a canary.) Fredrik’s son, Henrik, struggles to reconcile his seminary ethics with his zeal for his stepmother, clutching his prayer book. And Fredrik himself was probably unaware that he had brought Skoll to Newcastle, but he had a nicely wrapped and ribboned bottle of champagne.

“A Little Night Music” is like that champagne. When the first Broadway production opened, Clive Barnes of The Times called it Dom Pérignon. Wheeler’s seminal book, based on Ingmar Bergman’s 1955 film Smiles of a Summer Night, is certainly bubbly. Henrik loves Anne. She says Anne won’t sleep with Fredrick. Fredrik admires his actress girlfriend Desiree Armfeldt. Desires are kept by jealousy numbers. The Count’s wife, Charlotte, craves his attention – it doesn’t matter.

And even when the stage is set for what could be a tragedy (the gun comes out), it ends ostensibly like a Shakespearean comedy happily when everyone gathers at Desiree’s mother’s mansion that weekend. Souls damaged by mismatches are repaired in both senses.

But despite its frenzy, “A Little Night Music” is almost rude, even for a half-decent production. It’s even more pronounced in the first year after Sondheim’s death, when he layered that great song so densely with various regrets. For characters, like us, joy is always associated with loss.

So it’s no surprise that this Barrington Stage production, directed by Julian Boyd, has done so well. Mixed emotions are always felt, especially in her performances of the three women at the center. As an exasperated Charlotte, Sierra Boggess delivers a sad and hilarious sketch in which the wife seems to be drenched, in fact, soaked in a brine of her own disappointments. In a brilliant performance, Madam Armfeldt, Desiree’s arrogant mother, is no senile narcissist. She is a woman who clings to the thrill of a fully lived past in her final days.

But it’s Emily Skinner as Desiree, the focal point of complex romantic geometries, who most powerfully balances the show’s opposing forces and creates the warmest glow. After the performance, the scene where she welcomes Fredric (Jason Daniley) into her apartment and, despite his hymns to Anne, agrees to resurrect her old liaison — “What are old friends for?” — a perfectly executed situation model for her humor.

But then the humor deepens. Near the end of the weekend, when she realizes her last dream of getting Fredrick back once and for all has failed, Skinner offers a reading of the show’s blockbuster, “Send in the Clowns.” Layered like lasagna. Beneath her good sporting bravado lies rage — indeed, to Fredrick, for that when she’s “finally on the ground,” she’s still “in the air.” But beneath that lies something unexpected and even richer. Anger at being thrown out and not caring in time for the careless carelessness of her wandering life.

Vocally, the production is exceptional, with Daniley standing out among singers including Cooper Grodin as the Count, Sabina Corrazzo as Anne, and Sophie Mings as Petra in Anne’s Randimaid. increase. (She scores big in “The Miller’s Son” — a showstopper, but perhaps one failure of the piece when given to minor characters.) Every word sung is perfectly clear (sound by Leon Rothenberg), the ensemble moments are gorgeous – almost overwhelming in a relatively intimate theater.

Still, there were a lot of things that needed tweaking on opening night. The lighting cues went wrong, the pace of scene changes was erratic, the wet clothes didn’t drip, the shattered glass didn’t make a noise. More importantly, men hadn’t yet dug as deep as women. Danilei’s Fredrick isn’t stiff enough at first, but as the night’s momentous events wane, little can be unraveled. , it’s hard to comprehend how fascinating his profundity is.

Such issues are likely to be resolved before the show closes on August 28th. But you don’t have to do anything about Yun Bae’s light brown watercolors and Sarah Jean Tosetti’s bizarre outfits. (In “Send in the Clowns,” Skinner wears a gold brocade gown with glitter sleeves that looks more like a 1970s Las Vegas castoff than 1900’s Sweden.) Tunic’s original sumptuous orchestration suffices for a string quartet, two keyboards, and one overburdened lead player to support the show’s more intimate moments.

These are some of the costs of running a highly ambitious show in a local theater without massive Broadway funding. After all, it’s no small thing to be able to see a piece of such value in such a shabby, unindustrial city. Performing complex tasks successfully at all levels is important to culture and important to local economies. The Barrington Stage is considered one of his most successful ventures in Pittsfield.

For that, we have to thank Boyd, who founded the company with Susan Sperber in 1995 and is retiring as artistic director at the end of this season. (Alan Paul will take over in her October.) In 1998, when the company played in the auditorium of the high school’s Arts Center in nearby Sheffield, she once directed “A Little Night Music.” , knows all about its complex emotions. Promising growth and accepting limitations are often the same thing. That’s the gift she brings to the stage at the end of the first act. Just as she has brought it to us in her audience for 28 seasons.

little night music
Until August 28th at the Boyd Quinson Stage in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. barringtonstageco.orgRunning time: 2 hours 40 minutes.

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