Tuesday August 22nd 2017

“A Little Night Music”

Writers’ Theatre, the Northshore’s magical venue has done it again. Not known for musicals, they keep finding ways to bring their audiences a new interpretation of musicals they know from the large stage. They also have done some new creations, designed as “chamber pieces”, but  they have taken  a Sondheim/Wheeler classic,  “A Little Night Music” , and broughtit down from “big” production, to a chamber piece and never lose the value of what this story is all about. In fact, this may be the perfect way to present this charming musical love story. The story is based on an Ingmar Bergman film and in their little home on Tudor Court, Director William Brown has re-imagined this lovely tale with an intimacy that brings the audience much closer to the characters.

The story takes lace at the turn of the century ( 1800’s to 1900’s) in Sweden. Fredrik Egerman ( played exquistely by Jonathan Weir, who truly shows his vocal range in this show) an attorney has married a very young girl, Anne (an adorable interpretation by Kristen French) but in his heart longs for a lost love of his past- Desiree Armfeldt ( a glorious portrayal by Shannon Cochran), a famous actress, who is desired by most men. When he takes Anne to the theater, his eyes meet Desiree’s and the sparks of yesterday begin to rekindle.

Meanwhile Desiree has her own lover, one Count Carl-Magnus Malcom ( Chicago favorite Brandon Dahlquist, who clearly understand Sondheim’s works). The Count of course is a married man ( Tiffany Scott deftly handles this role). When Desiree asks her mother Madame Armfeldt ( Deanna Dunagan owns the stage when she is on it) to invite the Eggermans to her estate for the week-end, to keep the fire lit, The Countess decides to bring the Count as well, in order to make him see the light.There are other little stories that make this a slick comedy, as Fredrik has a young son ( a bit older than his new wife) who is studying to be in the ministry (Royen Kent) who finds himself attracted to all women, but in particular , his step-mother.

                                                                          

This grand “Week-end In The Country” becomes the leveling off place for all of the love birds in this story as we watch them play a cat and mouse game with each other. What happens during this week-end is that each of the lovers finds the right love and all “live happily ever after”. The ensemble is a uniquely strong one, made up of fine singers/actors; J. Michael Finley, Brianna Borger( who plays the “wench” to perfection) and Cory Goodrich ( always fun to watch). The last character is Desiree’s daughter, Fredrika, who has been raised by Madame Armfeldt. Once you hear her name, you will know that, as Paul Harvey used to say, there is a “rest of the story”. Shannon Corey makes her professional debut in this role and she couldn’t pick a better opportunity that this.

It is amazing that we are able to watch this wonderful musical with very little “glitz” and yet not lose any of the story. In fact, with the simple sets ( Kevin Depinet) and great lighting (Jesse Klug) along with sound (Andrew Hanson) that fills the room, we, the audience, have a better opportunity to absorb the content of the story and hear the words of the greatest wordsmith in “Musical Theater”, Stephen Sondheim. Rachel Anne Healy’s costumes are sheer perfection and the work of musical director Valerie Maze and music supervision by Roberta Duchak truly shows in the musical numbers. Songs like “Remember”, “A Weekend In The Country” and others add to the story, but the song that everyone is familiar with from this show, “Send In The Clowns” truly makes sense, as a song, after seeing where it fits in this musical. Special kudos to Nick Heggestad for his great props ( some looked very antique) and John Tunick for his orchestrations.

Writers’ Theatre is a wonderful company that continues to bring solid productions to the North Shore, bot at Tudor and at their smaller space in the back of the Books On Vernon shop in “downtown” Glencoe. If you have never been to one of their productions, this might be the perfect opportunity for you to spread your wings and take the trip- Glencoe is easy to get to and Writer’s makes it worth the trip.

“Night Music” will continue through July 8th with performances as follows:

Tuesdays and Wednesdays ( except July 4th) 7:30 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m. , Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m. and Sundays 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. ( no show May 20th or July 1st).

Tickets range from $45-$65 and are available at the box office located at 376 Park Avenue ( the aforementioned Book store), by phone at 847-242-600 or online at www.writerstheatre.org where you can also get info on trains, are dining and future shows.

For other views, visit the A Little Night Music page at www.theatreinchicago.com

 

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