Continuing Tacoma Little Theatre’s 100th anniversary year, “A Little Night Music” with music (such beautiful music) and lyrics (oh, so many lyrics) by Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler, is the current production at TLT.
This is a charming production of this Sondheim musical risqué play which boasts some of the best singing voices in the area.
Wheeler’s book borrows greatly from Molière’s Comédie-Française. We have the older husband (Fredrik Egerman), who is in an 11-month unconsummated marriage to a virginal ingénue (Anne), who is attended by a feisty maid (Petra), who vies for her mistress’ affections for and by Fredrik’s son, Henrik, a devout seminary student. The husband remembers past relations with his ex-mistress, renowned actress (Desirée Armfeldt) and seeks her solace. However, Desirée is involved with a new lover (Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm), who is married to devoted, trusting, innocent Charlotte. Desirée is content with her new meal-ticket but really loves the ex-paramour, with whom she may or may not have a daughter Fredrika Armfeldt, who is being raised by her wealthy mother, Madame Armfeldt, an ex-kept woman, who lives in the country.
As the story progresses, Anne flirts with Henrik and innocently dallies with Petra; Henrik flirts with Anne and not so innocently dallies with Petra. Fredrik seeks out and dallies with Desirée, which is discovered by Carl-Magnus. Charlotte discovers her husband has been dallying with Desirée and confronts her. Desirée gets her mother to invite the whole brood to come for a weekend in the country, where the whole cast gathers together to tie-up and untie the various liaisons.
All’s well that ends – well, you know what I mean – and it’s all set to glorious music and voices and dancing and costumes – and even good acting and direction!
Starting with the last first, the saying goes, “If you want something done right, ask a busy man.” There’s none busier the past few months than the director John Munn.
Munn is the Managing Artistic Director of The Lakewood Playhouse, where he recently closed the theatre’s production of “Angels in America,” which Munn spent nine months working on, casting and directing this epic production. Besides doing his regular job of running the Playhouse, Munn found the time to beautifully understand and direct this multi-faceted Sondheim work. The artist had the help of an excellent staff/crew.
Deborah Lynn Armstrong is Musical Director, who has worked in this capacity in several shows at Lakewood Playhouse, as well many other South Sound theatres. Armstrong is also the Director of Education at the Playhouse. Armstrong handles this assignment with knowledge and alacrity needed to assure an excellent performance from the instruments and voices she directs.
Armstrong also conducts and plays piano for the orchestra, which included Kelly Marsh and Alonso Tirado on violins; Kailee Wright, playing viola; Erika Fiebig on cello and Rose Nicholson on harp. All musicians make a glorious sound on the multi-stringed instruments.
Lexi Barnett choreographs this 1900 era musical in the perfect style for the dances the cast must master to make their performances real; Barnett succeeds, as do the dancers.
Blake R. York is Technical Director and Scenic Designer. York has given the audience a enchanting forest of floor to teasers birch trees, crowned across the proscenium arch with leaves to those flats which swivel to allow crew and actors to bring on and off set pieces to change the venue. These willowy mammoth structures are almost reminiscent of another Sondheim offering,”Into the Woods.” They are beautiful and intriguing.
Niclas Olson does an apt lighting design. Michele Graves’ costume design is correct to the era and characters. Jeffery Weaver is Properties Master/Wig and Hair designer. All do their parts to bring this production to the excellent production it is.
For the cast, Munn has chosen from some of the best voices and actors available to him, and chosen wisely. Each thespian fits the bill for their roles in acting, voice and dance.
As the audience gazes at the soothing white birch forest adorning the stage, the theatre is invaded by four beautiful operatic voices marching down both aisles of the house singing “Night Waltz” all the way to the stage where they are joined by one more.
These voices belong to; Charles “Chap” Wolff, who plays Mr. Lindquist; Caryl Dowd as Mrs. Nordstrom, who sports perhaps the most beautiful voice of these Lead Singers; Heidi Walworth-Horn, Mrs. Anderssen; and Erik Davis, Mr. Erlanson; they are joined on stage by Kira Leigh Vega as Mrs. Segstrom.
Other ensemble members include Dominic Girolami as Frid, Madam Armfeldt’s butler; Grace Wilkerson, Osa, Madam’s maid; Audrey Stowe, Desirée’s maid. All of these members add to the progress of the story and do their jobs aptly with good timing and character definition.
Julianna Guzman-Ferreira appears as Fredrika Armfeldt, Desirée’s (and Fredrik’s?) daughter. This is a charming young lady, who makes her character as the demure on-the-brink of womanhood quite believable.
Rosalie Hilburn is an amazing Madame Armfeldt. Hilburn controls her household as she makes her character the running force of her world. The able actor rules her surroundings from her wheeled chair with all the authority of a queen demanding her due.
Jamey Creek is Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm, he possess an outstanding musical voice. Creek is the current gentleman caller who offers support to Desirée in return for her affections. Creek makes his character certain that he is the only one for whom his lady-friend has eyes. The actor shows his surprise when he finds Fredrik in a compromising situation with Desirée.
Alyssa Hersey is Countess Charlotte Malcolm, his wife. Hersey plays the devoted ‘little woman’ as one completely aware of the extra-marital flings her husband pursues. When Charlotte finds her little sister is a school friend of Anne Egerman, she tells her of her husband’s tryst with the Count’s mistress. Anne is shocked and saddened. However, Charlotte says she considers it something a dutiful wife must endure. Hersey has nailed Charlotte’s character especially when she wins over the Count to stop his extra-material pursuits.
Juliet Hollifield is a charming Anne Egerman, our youthful, flirtatious wife who is truly shocked to learn of her husband’s liaisons with Desirée. However, Hollifield makes up for her character’s shock about her husband’s activities, when she realizes she has fallen for her step-son and gleefully arranges for the two of them to leave Madam’s house together.
Will Johnson is Henrik Egerman, the devastated divinity student guilty of loosing his virtue of thoughts about his father’s wife and in reality with his step-mother’s maid. The actor gives his character the feel of a lost lamb trying to ratify the error of his ways, even to bungling his try at suicide. When Anne convinces all is not his fault, Johnson makes Henrik very happy that he is such a bunger.
Hayley Ewerz is Anne’s overly friendly maid. Ewerz has developed a wonderful, lively character, who is ready for sexual gratification with whomever she can find available. Ewerz is terrific as the feisty serving girl who services as many as she can. Ewerz offers true comic relief in a convoluted tale; nice job.
Casi Pruitt is Desirée Armfeldt. It is so gratifying to find a woman more than 35-years of age who can be looked upon as a sexy, desirable woman. Pruitt (age unknown – and who cares?) is perfect for this role. She exudes her sexual prowess from her smile to her lovely singing voice; her acting is in the form of an invitation. Pruitt is an excellent actress, who gives her character all the necessary umph to win men over to being happy to ply her with gifts and cash for her upkeep. All that and a wonderful actress, as well – Pruitt gives Desirée what men truly want to desire. And when she sings “Send in the Clowns,” every heart in the theatre breaks a little.
Jonathan Bill plays Fredrik Egerman, the not quite husband, who none too patiently awaits consummation of his 11-month marriage to his very young wife, who is just one year younger than his son from his first marriage. Bill, who is a mainstay at Tacoma Musical Playhouse, makes his TLT debut with this production, and it couldn’t have come at a more propitious moment. Bill is perfect for this role. His acting captures his character’s every mood from love to anxiety to certainty to being unsure to desire, to lust, to love. Bill turns an admirable performance.
“A Little Night Music” continues at Tacoma Little Theatre at 210 North I Street for one more weekend, Friday, March 29, Saturday, March 30 at 7:30 p.m. and a Sunday, 2 p.m. matinee, March 31,.
For more information or to make reservations call the theatre at (253) 272-2281 or go online to www.tacomalittletheatre.com.