Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Review: Sondheim’s A Little Night Music gets lavish, joyous production at Light Opera of New Jersey

Lit Night Music

Light Opera of New Jersey's lavish production of  the Tony-Award winning classic A Little Night Music opened this past weekend. This beautifully staged musical, a cross between opera and musical theater, is blessed with a remarkable cast of fine singers/actors... mostly professional artists from New Jersey and New York City. This talented group is under the leadership of music director Lois Buesser, a LONJ veteran of more than a dozen productions, and stage director Jeffrey Fiorello, one of our leading directing talents. Ms. Buesser also leads the fine pit orchestra of 16. In the wings are the multi-talented, creators/producers of the LONJ.... Lauran (Artistic Director) and William Corson (Executive Producer).

Music and lyrics of A Little Night Music is by Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler. It was inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night. Its title is a literal English translation of the German name for Mozart's Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major, Eine kleine Nachtmusik. The original Broadway production was in 1973 with an all-star cast including Glynis Johns (Desiree Armfeldt), Len Cariou (Fredrik Egerman), and Hermione Gingold (Madame Armfeldt). The London West End production starred Judy Dench as Desiree. One of the songs has since become a popular classic..."Send in the Clowns."

lit B Haag andA Little Night Music is a a romantic farce set at the turn of the 20th century in Sweden, where we meet in the first act Desiree Armfeldt (Barbara Haag-photo left), a once successful actress who sets out to marry an old lover, Fredrik Egerman (Robert Jacobson) who just happens to be recently married to the very young, eighteen year old Anne Egerman (Lauren Dwane-photo below left). She has a unique quality for a bride of several months....she is a virgin. Fredrik also has a son from a previous marriage, Henrik (Shane Long) the same age as his wife! Henrik only has eyes for his step-mother. However, the rest of him finds comfort in the open arms of the lusty maid Petra (Madison Washer)..and he is a seminary student!

lit lauren Dwane Meantime, Desiree, has a young daughter Fredrika (Adelaide Prekopa-fine young actress) living away from the sins of an actor's life in the country with her grandmother, the overbearing Madame Armfeldt (Penny Hoadley), Prior to Fredrik's arrival Desiree has been involved with the insanely jealous Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Kevin Grace). The Count's equally jealous wife the Countess Charlotte Malcolm (Sandra Taylor-photo above right) plots to to re-win her husband's favor. Act two is set at the country estate of Desiree's mother Madame Armfeldt.   Fredrik and his family including maids have been invited for the weekend. This turns out to be a highly dramatic weekend in the country particularly when the Count and Countess arrive uninvited. The Count has one mission....eliminate Fredrik as a rival for Desiree's ample affections. He comes with dueling pistol at the ready.

litt 14[5] The plot is charming fun, but it is the Sondheim music that you must go to hear. Sondheim wrote the music in 3/4 time, giving the show the feel of a Viennese operetta. The opening number "Night Waltz" features a gorgeous voiced quintet; Susanna Su, Alex Corson, Kristin Roney, Lyssandra Stephenson, and Jarrett Smith (They serve nicely to bridge many scenes in both acts-photo right). They are joined on stage for "Night Waltz" by the entire company of 15. The Company closes the first act with the delightfully staged and choreographed "A Weekend In The Country."

The play has a total of 17 musical numbers with the showstopper  "Send In The Clowns" sung by the marvelous Barbara is an old line but, to hear Ms. Haag perform this now classic you may find it is worth the price of admission.  Robert Jacobson is a handsome, fine voiced Fredrik perfectly paired with Barbara Haag. He impresses with several songs..."Now," "You Must Meet My Wife" with Barbara Haag, and the amusing "It Could Have Been Wonderful" with the powerfully voiced Kevin Grace.

LittIMG_4841[12] Penny Hoadley (the Queen-Mother of the Chester Theatre Group) as the wheelchair bound Madame Armfeldt has fun with "Liasions." Madison Washer as the lusty maid Petra has even more fun with "The Miller's Son." The two wives are outstanding...Lauren Dwane as Anne and Sandra Taylor as the Countess, particularly in their duet "Every Day A Little Death." Shane Long as Henrik is very effective with his solo "Later." This is a lament about his amorous attempts that are constantly met with polite rejection.

Rounding out the cast are: Adrian Rifat as Frid, Madame Armfeldt's butler; Joe Leo as the page Bertrand; and Pamela Wilczynski as the maid Malla.

Creative credits include: director Jeffrey Fiorello; music direction Lois Buesser; producer and lighting design Diane Giangreco; costume and scenic design Mark Happel (some of the lavish costumes that were used in the New York City Opera production from 1990 and 1991); choreography Megan Ferentinos; and stage manager Pamela Wilczynski.

This Light Opera of New Jersey production is an absolute joy for both the eye and the ear. A truly first class musical event....remember only three performances remain!  Click for link to video

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio  July 12, 2015

A Little Night Music is being presented over two weekends at Morristown Beard School on Whippany Road in Morristown (excellent, comfortable, air conditioned theater). The remaining performances are this Friday and Saturday at 8 pm and 2 pm Sunday. ADMISSION: $25-$30 INFORMATION: 908-655-6023.or


TOP PHOTO: Back row Shane Long, Robert Jacobson and Kevin Grace-seated on bench Barbara Haag and Sandra Taylor-seated on rug Adelaide Prekopa.

BOTTOM PHOTO: L-R Adelaide Prekopa, Barbara Haag, Adrian Rifat  and Penny Hoadley-seated

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