The first thing that caught Peg’s eye were the floating tree images that formed the backdrop and passage ways on the stage. The were made of 1/8th inch thick wood with cut outs to represent the birch forest. There was a continuance of the birch theme with a whole birch cutout on each side of the stage that framed the whole set with intermingling leaves at the top. The tree backdrop panels were in constant use on stage in both acts.
The first thing that caught my eye was an ancient wheelchair. I hadn’t seen one of those since I worked at Western State Hospital, while attending the University of Puget Sound. The setting for the play was Sweden in 1900. Wheelchairs must have used the same design for sixty-some years. The wheelchair was occupied by Madam Armfeldt (Rosalie Hilburn). She was being pushed by Frid (Dominic Girolami). We immediately recognized Dominic. We have seen him in several youth acting programs at TLT and are familiar with the last name. His uncle went to St. Patrick’s school with our children. Dominic also went to St. Patrick’s, which works with TLT in developing new stage talent. I don’t remember Frid speaking during the performance, but he danced quite nicely and he pushed the wheelchair exceedingly well. This opening scene involved Madam Armfeldt and her granddaughter, Fredrika (Julianna Guzman-Ferreira) and sets the tone for the entire production. Madam Armfeldt warns Fredrika not to lean against the wheelchair with her young breasts. “It might stunt their growth and then where would you be.”
Fredrick (Jonathan Bill) has a son Henrik (Will Johnson) and a new, young wife Anne (Juliet Hollifield). Fredrick and Anne have been married eleven months and haven’t had sex yet. Henrick has the hots for stepmom Anne, while Anne likes and flirts with Henrick. Frederick surprises Anne with tickets to see Swedish super star Desiree Armfeldt (Casi Pruitt). Anne soon realizes that Fredrick and Desiree are or have been lovers. Desiree is the daughter of Madam Armfeldt, a former, many times kept and now elderly and wealthy woman, who is raising Desiree’s daughter Fredrika, who may or may not be the daughter of Fredrick.
The married Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Jamey Creek) stops in to see “his” kept woman, Desiree. Instead he meets Fredrick who is wearing the count’s nightshirt when he surprises them. Specious explanations abound but are maybe possible but most likely not. The count has one solution for most problems: a duel. To stir up trouble, Count Carl has instructed his wife, the Countess Charlotte Malcolm (Alyssa Hersey) to go visit Anne to gossip and get the low-down on all events. With the sympathy and commiseration of Anne, Charlotte charts a new course and plans to teach her husband a lesson by mounting her own campaign for a dalliance with Fredrick. Throw in the antics of a lusty maid, Petra (Hayley Ewerz) and you have all the ingredients for a proper civilized weekend romp in the country.
The only thing that frustrated young Henrick (Will Johnson) can get his arms around is his cello and the Bible he carries as a divinity student. His too short trousers show that he is an awkward and a still growing young man. His frustrated step-mom drops a ball of yarn, which rolls under her dress and petticoats. She innocently asks Henrick to retrieve it. We first saw Will Johnson playing the over-the-top dentist in the Lakewood Playhouse production of Little Shop of Horrors. He plays vibrant characters really well.
Swedish super-star Desiree, played by Casi Pruitt, plots and plans. She’s a diva who can barely keep her enthusiasm and her breasts contained. Casi does a great job as Desiree, a woman at the top of her profession and looking for security as she ages. After the debacle with the count, Desiree asks her mother to invite Fredrick and Anne down for a weekend at her country house. We first saw Casi in “Dear Liar,” a staged reading at TLT opposite Tim Hoban. The staged readings and limited engagement events at TLT are delightful and worth the effort to see.
The countess and the count are haughty and mindful of their social standing and his rank. When they hear that Fredrick and Anne are going to Madame Armfeldt’s, they decide to crash the weekend party. They play this to the hilt. Alyssa Hersey (Countess Charlotte) has a nice voice and you can easily believe that she runs her household and her marriage to the blustering count on her own terms. Jamey Creek as the count has the manner of a well-placed and content military officer. You feel that his character only lacks his hand inside his jacket to become the Napoleon of Sweden.
The upper classes are not the only ones to succeed in games of charm and lust. Hayley Ewerz does a great job as the maid who wants what everyone else is seeking. Ewerze plays Petra as a rock-steady participant of Anne’s romantic urges that don’t contain Fredrick – thus a little night music and dreams.
In the end, the main characters are united and coupled, not necessarily with the same person they came with. In a romantic comedy the audience wants to see the main characters succeed. Jonathan and Casi succeed and so does the audience.
Stephen Sondheim’s music was sublime, full of harmonies, counterpoint and verve. The company contributed mightily to the charm of the evening. They opened the play in suitable 1900 bourgeois dress. They sang beautifully throughout and established the dreamlike summer setting.
Stephen Sondheim’s glorious musical masterpiece won four Tony Awards®. The cast was fantastic. Pierce County is lucky to have our theatre community working together and supporting each other. This production was directed by John Munn, the artistic and managing director of Lakewood Playhouse. TLT’s Managing Artistic Director Chris Serface has directed at Lakewood Playhouse during this celebration year of 100 seasons. Peg and I are happy to call both of them friends. This was an outstanding production with a striking set by (Blake R. York and Frank Roberts) and an orchestra led by Deborh Lynbn Armstrong and movement choreographed by Lexi Barnett. The photos are courtesy of Dennis K Photography. This musical is recommended for Ages 12+. The production runs through March 31, 2019. – tacomalittletheatre.com/blog/20182019/nightmusic