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The Arlington Players A Little Night Music

By • Jun 4th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
A Little Night Music
The Arlington Players
Mead Center, Washington DC
Through June 17th
2:55 with intermission
$25/$20 Seniors and juniors
Reviewed June 1st, 2012

While earthquake repairs are completed in their traditional home at the Thomas Jefferson Middle School, The Arlington Players (TAP) make excellent use of the Kogod Cradle in the Arena Stage complex for their production of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. This is probably Sondheim’s sunniest piece, based in turn on Ingmar Bergman’s only comedy, Smiles of a Summer Night.

Russell Kopp’s non-representational set design is based on a series of curved platforms, some of which are moved about the stage to be a dinner table, a nightstand, etc. The platforms, accented by several bound bundles of wooden poles, provide a variety of levels for the actors, which director Christopher Dykton uses to create effective stage pictures, particularly in the first act finale and the second act dinner scene. The orchestra is placed in full view upstage of the platforms, to the benefit of the show’s sound. The design is an innovative and successful way to use a space lacking a traditional proscenium, wings, or fly capability.

The primary glory of the physical production, however, is Grant Kevin Lane’s costume design (with costumes provided by a Florida company, Costume World Theatrical). The costumes are fully appropriate to the early 20th century period of the show, in happy contrast to Arena’s production of The Music Man next door in the Fichandler. The women’s costumes, particularly for Desiree, Charlotte, and Anne, are gorgeous, flattering to the actors, and interesting in their details. Simply looking at the actors in the production is a pleasure.

The pleasures of the performances are more mixed, however. Annie Coffman is perfectly cast as the young and frivolous Anne Egerman, displaying a fine soprano voice in “Soon.” Opposite her as Henrik Egerman, Scott Harrison has the high tenor chops needed to successfully negotiate the challenging “Later.” He also ably portrays Henrik’s over-the-top late adolescent angst. The top vocal solo moment of the show belongs to Anne Marie Pinto. As Petra, the sex-focused maid, she not only nails the lyrical and patter aspects of “The Miller’s Son,” but her performance of the song conveys poignantly Petra’s realization of her life’s limited horizons.

As the lead characters, Fredrik Egerman and Desiree Armfeldt, Brent Stone and Heather Friedman sing and act competently, though without the spark that can make these characters truly memorable. Stone’s Fredrik is sometimes a little too impressed with his own cleverness, while Friedman’s Desiree is not quite the magnetic presence that the script makes her out to be. Friedman fortunately avoids the temptation to vocally embellish the show’s best-known number, “Send in the Clowns.” Originally written for a non-singer, the song must be done straight in order to work, and Friedman’s rendition succeeds in conveying the way her veteran trouper character deals with an emotionally crushing moment.

As Desiree’s daughter, Fredrika, Camille McDermott is lively but does not quite capture her character’s precocious sophistication, maturity, and worldliness. Her pragmatic grandmother, Madame Armfeldt (Jennifer Strand) has a riveting moment in “Liaisons,” her lament for times and lovers past. Throughout the history of Night Music, Madame Amfeldt’s instantaneous death scene has never worked convincingly; Strand does as well as she can with it.

It wouldn’t seem possible to overplay Count Malcolm, Desiree’s dense, hyper-macho lover, but Hans Dettmar sometimes manages the feat. His second act duet with Fredrik, “It Would Have Been Wonderful,” is good fun, however. As his long-suffering wife Charlotte, Janet Van Albert Regpole is not as bitterly funny as some who have played the role, but she gets the emotional complexity of “Every Day a Little Death.”

Sondheim’s score for A Little Night Music, composed in 3/4 time, is one of his best. It features a quintet, a sort of Scandinavian Greek chorus, which sets scenes and reflects upon other characters’ actions. This production’s quintet, while including some good voices, did not blend ideally and at times had pitch problems, especially in the sung overture. The orchestra displayed periodic opening night uncertainties as well. Generally, however, the musical quality of the production is good, with a particularly rousing “A Weekend in the Country” to end the first act.

Note to props: it simply isn’t possible to play Russian roulette with a single-shot, muzzle-loading pistol.

A Little Night Music is a show that is easy to love, and there is a lot to like in the current TAP production.

Director’s Notes

One major theme in literature is the notion that when we experience nature, (“go into the country”) we really see and know the truth about ourselves. A Little Night Music embraces this theme. The mismatched couples of this musical go into the country to a weekend because of Desiree’s plan. By happenstance, they look at who they are, face their true selves, and ultimately find their right partners.

For us at The Arlington Players (TAP), we’re experiencing our own “weekend in the country,” but for us, our weekend is actually in the city. Last August, after DC was shaken by an earthquake, TAP lost use of its home, the Thomas Jefferson (TJ) Community Theater, for the season because of damage. Partnering with the Mead Center, TAP found a new place at the Kogod Cradle to present its spring musical.

We traveled to DC’s urban setting to see ourselves and our truth to recommit to our mission to present theater in the grand style. This presentation of A Little Night Music is different from recent TAP productions at TJ: while grand in music and presentation, it is also minimalist and suggestive. It strips the story down to its heart, unfolding it in continuously fluid and arched staging and choosing to mirror a waltz. Examining our hearts is the key to self-knowledge, whether one is a character finding love in a musical or a theater re-embracing its mission. Thank you for joining us on our weekend visit.

Cast

  • Mr. Lindquist : Mike Usowski
  • Mrs. Nirdstrom: Jennifer Jacobsen
  • Mrs. Andersson: Nikki Arbiter-Murphy
  • Mr. Erlanson: Joseph Wilson
  • Mrs. Segstrom: Jean Koppen
  • Fredrika Armfeldt: Camille McDermotta
  • Madame Armfeldt: Jennifer Strand
  • Frid, her butler: Juan Arroyo-Alvelo
  • Henrik Egerman: Scott Harrison
  • Anne Egerman: Brent Stone
  • Petra: Anne Marie Pinto
  • Desiree Amfeldt: Heather Friedman
  • Malla, her maid: Joelle Thomas
  • Bertrand, a page: Steven Yates
  • Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm: Hans Dettmar
  • Countess Charlotte Malcolm: Janet Van Albert Replogle
  • Osa: Amy Jagodnik

Production Team

  • Producer: John K. Monnett
  • Director/Choreography: Christopher Dykton
  • Music Director: John-Michael d’Haviland
  • Stage Manager: Terri Carnahan
  • Conductor: Leah Kocsis
  • Set & Painting Design: Russell Kopp
  • Master Carpenter: Bill Wisniewski
  • Set Dressing: Lindsey Hays
  • Properties Design: Avery Burns
  • Lighting Designer: B. Keith Ryder
  • Sound Design: Keith Bell
  • Costume Design: Grant Kevin Lane
  • Make Up Design: Xandra Weaver
  • Wig & Hair Design: Bette Williams
  • Assistant Stage Managers: Mary Andrus, Meghann K. Peterlin
  • Associate Sound Designers: Chris Kagy, Drew Morberley
  • Drafting Associate: Amanda Acker
  • Set Construction Crew: Michael deBlois, Malcolm Edwards, Peter Finkel, Richard Garey, Ernst Harmse, William Kolodrubetz, Arthur Pleasants, Rachel Wolkowitz
  • Charge Painters: Barbara Esquibel, Nikki Hoffpauir, Katie Lewis, Karen Toth
  • Deck Manager: Margret Tratta
  • Deck Crew: Barbara Catrett, Angelica Kenny, Katie Lewis
  • Light Board Operator: Michael Brown
  • Sound Crew: Michael Bruno
  • Wardrobe: Joel Furtick
  • Auditions: Amanda Acker, Avery Burns Meghann Peterlin, Elisa Rosman, Steven Yates
  • Photography: Michael deBlois
  • Program: James Villarrubia, John Monnett
  • Logo Design: James Villarrubia
  • Box Office: Barbara Esquibel, Nikki Hoffpauir
  • Opening Night Party: Jennifer Strand & Bill Wisniewski

Musicians

  • Reeds: Gwyn Jones, Alisha Coleman, Katrina Ambrose, Renae Smith, Louis Reichwein, Dana Gardner (sub), Jeff Kahan (sub),
  • Strings: Devon Nicoll-Oviedo, Riann Edson, Megan Frame, Virginia Gardner, Rick Netherton, Jessica McKinney (sub), Heather Mac Arthur (sub)
  • Brass: Paul Weiss, Mark V. Deal, Deborah Kline, Ryan Shofnos, Eric Lindberg, Lora Katz (sub)
  • Keyboard/Piano: Sarah Elliott, Valerie Higgs, J. Michael d’Haviland
  • Percussion: Matt Robotham

Disclaimer: The Arlington Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review. TAP also purchased advertising on the ShowBizRadio.net web site, which did not influence this review.

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has been an active participant in the Washington-area community theater scene since his arrival in town in 1975.

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