A Little Night Music by Mu Performing Arts, performing at Park Square Theatre

Randy Reyes and Sheena Janson in A Little Night Music.  Photo by Michal Daniel.

Randy Reyes and Sheena Janson in A Little Night Music. Photo by Michal Daniel.

In Stephen Sondheim‘s marvelous A Little Night Music (Mu Performing Arts performing at Park Square Theatre, through Aug 10) little surprise or tension lies in the playing-out of the characters’ predictable arcs. Frederik is married, sexlessly, to Anne. Famous matinee idol Desiree Armfeldt reappears. She and Frederik make love, to the consternation of her pompous lover Carl-Magnus and his fiery wife Charlotte. Desirée’s delightfully louche mother invites everyone to spend a “Weekend In The Country” where everything gets – neatly – worked out.

But what songs A Little Night Music provides! Yowza! “The Glamorous Life,” “The Sun Won’t Set,” “A Weekend In The Country” all sung by a smilingly debonair chorus weaving sinuously around the stage.  “You Must Meet My Wife,” “Every Day A Little Death,” lovely duets.  The melding together of “Now,” “Later” and “Soon” is pure (and brilliant) Sondheim. The militaristic/buffoonish Carl-Magnus sings “In Praise Of Women.” Over the years (A Little Night Music first appeared in 1973) Desiree’s famous “Send In The Clowns” has been covered by, minimally, five thousand singers.  The wonderful “Liaisons.”

But for my money (of which I have little), the most stirring song in the show has to be “The Miller’s Son.” In it, Petra (gorgeously played by Alice McGlave) offers a soaring celebratory paean to “what life sends me,” a rich and affecting counterpoint to the self-centered doings of her upper class fellow characters.  Truly thrilling.

The Mu production of A Little Night Music is directed by former artistic director Rick Shiomi. Shiomi presents the brilliant music perfectly, giving us a simple, yet effervescent and energized reading of the material.

Shiomi has also cast performers who possess the musical chops – and then some – to sing Sondheim’s deceptively simple music. Randy Reyes (Mu’s current artistic director; there is a deliciously incestuous vibe to this show) plays Frederik with a slightly goofy reserve which quite niftily animates his songs. The ever-awesome Sheena Janson plays Desiree. Suzie Juul effectively plays Anne. Wes Mouri gives a depressed yet funny Henrik, no small feat. Alex Galik is a hoot and a half as puffed up Carl-Magnus.

I’m running out of room here, but I have to wax especially enthusiastic about Meghan Kreidler as Charlotte. This performer has been knocking around the local theater scene for a few years and I’m delighted to report that in A Little Night Music she has – almost – found a role that showcases her substantial talents. I couldn’t yank my eyes away from her. Casters take note: Kreidler sings, acts brilliantly, is extremely easy on the eyes. She is on the verge of a breakthrough.

Ahem. Well, all right. Dramatically I have some issues with this show, mainly having to do with the youthfulness of the performers. A Little Night Music is about aging, about the Death-encrusted veneer covering the lives of the upper class characters. Life breaks through, and in this lies exuberance and triumph. But this requires arch reserve from the characters and this production too often short-shrifts this aspect of the show. The (baby-faced) Reyes does remarkably well, but Janson I found too fluid, too giggly, too quick to sneer – too youthful, iow. She is less effective as a result. Ditto Lara Trujillo as Madame Armfeldt. Too often, this show consists of actors playing at maturity.

Ah, but pay no attention to me. Mu’s A Little Night Music is a clear and affecting rendering of some of the best theater music you’re likely to encounter (unless you see another Sondheim show).

For more information about John Olive, please visit his website.

 

 

 

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