Berkshire Theatre Group, Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA
through July 19, 2014
by Walt Haggerty
Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music” is a treasure of the modern American theatre. Considered by many to be Sondheim’s greatest work, it is rarely absent from stages around the world including occasional productions by leading opera companies.
In its current reincarnation by the Berkshire Theatre Group, “Night Music” has been spectacularly recreated with inspired direction by Ethan Heard, joyous choreography by Alex Sanchez, and flawless performances by a sensational cast.
Hugh Wheeler, whose book allows ample space for Sondheim’s exquisite lyrics and magnificent score, has skillfully adapted the story, “suggested by a film by Ingmar Bergman,” It tells a tale of love that, through a series of clever plot twists, resolves the difficulties of several mismatched pairs allowing them to find their world set straight at the final curtain.
In “Night Music,” the musical selections are never merely set pieces, but are integrated parts of a whole, carrying the story forward. By opening the performance with the full cast on stage in an elegantly executed performance of “Night Waltz,” the mood is set. As each key character is introduced, their personas and situations are quickly established. Recently married Fredrik, played by Gregg Edelman, performs “Now” with reluctant patience; while his wife Anne, portrayed by Phillipa Soo, offers tentative promise through “Soon.” Son, Henrik, exuberantly acted by Matt Dengler, reveals his frustrations and impatience in “Later.” The three solos are ultimately blended in a delightful trio.
Penny Fuller, as Madame Armfeldt, has a grand time as a grand dame in her “Liaisons” recollections, while Maureen O’Flynn demonstrates her flair for comedy with “The Glamorous Life” and later, the depth of her character with “Send in the Clowns.” Kate Baldwin’s Charlotte, captures the essence of irony in every line, while Graham Rowat’s Carl-Magnus is oblivious to his own “tin soldier’ persona.
Emma Foley, as the young Fredrika, reveals wisdom beyond her years in a charming portrayal; while Monique Barbee’s spirited delivery of “The Miller’s Son,” sparkles as a show stopper.
The Berkshire Theatre Group’s “A Little Night Music is a leading contender for this season’s top production and a not-to-be-missed opportunity for all theatre lovers.