A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC
Patrick Street Productions, Gateway Theatre until 21st October
My Two Pence
My Two Cents
By Penny Warwick
Patrick Street Productions continues to be a leader in musical theatre in the city with this powerhouse production enlisting some of the best talent in the city.
Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music has a wonderful score (Send in the Clowns anyone?) which the cast handle deftly supported by a modest on-stage orchestra completed with a visually stunning (and sounding) giant harp. The musical direction for Sondheim has to be clinical in precision and Sean Bayntun should be applauded for the choices he made throughout.
The storyline bounces along nicely and transitions are made more interesting by the movement of large sheer curtains which move in a choreographed fashion which is surprisingly beautiful to watch. These curtains allow parts of the stage to be covered at times or to allow a separation of scenes at others. Along with the curtains, there is a bed, a chaise and other small set pieces which make their way on and off stage cleanly. The addition of a lighted "mirror" for Desiree Armfeldt (Katey Wright) during Fredrika’s song is a lovely touch. The costumes work well and the on-stage dressing and undressing is an effective vehicle.
The cast is strong, and whilst the ages being played on stage were not always believable there is no denying that the performers tried their best. It is not hard to pick the standouts in this show. Lindsay Warnock as Countess Charlotte Malcolm shows the epitome of timing and control as she effortlessly switched between humour and tragedy in her role. Nick Fontaine as her husband the grandiose Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm was the perfect counter to Warnock, and their relationship was the most believable to be played out. I was also a fan of the magic-trick involved in the knife throwing. Patti Allen as the disillusioned millionairess Madame Armfeldt also had some fantastic moments and her characterization has a beautiful nuance. I would also be remiss to not mention Elizabeth Irving (Fredrika), who at only 13 years of age holds her place admirably among this cast.
There were a few opening night wobbles, however, Sondheim is notoriously tricky musically and I have no doubt these jitters will be gone by the time you are reading this so I will not be picking them apart here.
Peter Jorgenson has put together a stellar cast here and directed them well. The stylised comedy moments are well balanced with subtler emotion in scenes. I applaud the choice to have Petra (Rose McNeil) sing The Miller’s Son to another female servant rather than to Frid (Jacob Woike) with whom she flirts with throughout her time at the Armfeldt Mansion. It added a stark reminder of the expectation for Petra (and indeed all the women in the story) to marry into a heteronormative relationship. We see in this version her dreaming about the times she can sneak off with another maid (Lyndsay Britten) which could change the song from being a casual ditty about sexual liberation and aversion to monogamy to a whistful torch song about her longing to be able to live in her true sexuality. This is also echoed in an earlier scene when she kisses Anne which quickly changes a playful moment to tension and unease. It was an unexpected and welcome modernisation to the story and gave the somewhat two-dimensionally written role of Petra more depth.
A Little Night Music is a great kick-off for Gateway's thirty-third season which promises more co-productions than ever before and boasts "something for everyone". If you are a fan of quick humour, delicious vocals and a good night out at the theatre this is definately "something" for you.
By Kelly Moncton
A Little Night Music is a lush musical full of intrigue, romance, and humour. Patrick Street Productions has assembled an excellent cast and each performer shines. All of the elements were great, but some acting choices in the show felt a little bit safer than the script implies.
The characters repeatedly refer to the foolishness of lovers, but as the main couple, Katey Wright and Warren Kimmel feel calm and collected throughout the show. When her character longs for a “coherent existence” with Kimmel, it’s a bit jarring, because Wright seemed to have everything under control. Likewise, Patti Allen, charming and commanding as Wright’s mother, sounds a bit delusional when she talks about her past romantic conquests. There wasn’t quite enough mystery surrounding these two characters who are written to be such magnificent, alluring creatures.
By contrast, Caleb Di Pomponio and Arinea Hermans felt irrational as the younger generation of lovers. Their emotions were quick to bubble, which made other characters seem dry, and their own problems less genuine. They were warm and funny at all the right moments, and sang beautifully! It just felt like they were part of a different story.
Lindsay Warnock and Nick Fontaine’s conniving couple felt like the happy middle in this uneven show. Warnock’s balance of snide bitterness and despair engaged our sympathy while allowing us to laugh with and at her. Fontaine kept his military character’s temper on the cool side, but allowed some key moments to boil through, and played up the absurdity of his willfully ignorant character.
Elizabeth Irving navigated her young characters’ precocious thoughts and Sondheim’s tricky music with ease. I enjoyed the choice to have Rose McNeil sing The Miller’s Son to Lyndsey Britten instead of Jacob Woike. It played up her character’s flirtatiousness, and added extra weight to the final line.
Sondheim writes challenging music and complicated lyrics, and all of performers onstage showed great skill in singing with beauty, intelligence, and heart. The balance with the piano and strings was exquisite, and it was such a treat to hear. Likewise, the technical elements were smooth and polished, other than one lighting/set glitch during Send In The Clowns. The curtains were used to great effect as the scenes changed.
Although I wished for more daring and intensity in some performances, this was a beautiful show, and I left feeling that I could waltz forever. It is well worth your time to see this heartfelt musical.