Friday September 22nd 2017

“A Little Night Music”

I am a Sondheim “fanatic”! There I said it! Now you will know that each of his musicals, the winners and losers as far as profit and time on Broadway, mean less to me than the quality of the pieces themselves. Circle Theatre, in their new home in Oak Park is growing in stature and they are now doing plays that they could never attempt to do in their old home, down the street.  Their current production, “A Little Night Music”, with a book by Hugh Wheeler and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, is a gem- under the direction of Bob Knuth who also did an amazing job with the set design. Based on the Ingmar Bergman film “Smiles of a Summer Night”. “Night Music” is almost an operetta set in waltz time. This is a true love story of past loves, current loves and the possibilities that each of our characters have waiting in “life’s wings”. This is a farcical look at love triangles and love lost and then regained. While I found that  some of the casting was not as I would have preferred to see in the roles played, Knuth chose people who could make it happen. Often in smaller companies, companies that are far off off loop, many actors cannot commit to the time spent commuting for rehearsals and production, but those selected do get the job done!

The stories are somewhat confusing, which works toward making the “farce” part. Fredrik ( nicely done by Kirk Swenk), an attorney who has recently married Anne (charmingly portrayed by newcomer Stephanie Stockstill) a girl who is the daughter of one of his nearest and dearest friends, has still not seen their marriage consummated. His son,Henrik ( deftly handled by Patrick Tierney) who is studying  for the  ministry, it appears is in love with Anne himself. Fredrik’s heart belongs to a former lover, Desiree ( Anita Hoffman handles this role with a special flair), an actress who has a daughter, Fredrika ( the adorable Alicia Hurtado)  living in her country home with her mother, Madame Armfeldt ( the always reliable Patti Roeder). Back to Desiree” and her “lover”Carl-Magnus, a military man ( a fine performance by Jeremy Rill, who is always fun to watch on stage) and his wife, Charlotte is played to perfection by Deanna Boyd. There are other little love stories going on and in the end, we have many happy endings.

Some of the music in this tune filled work, many of which are Sondheim’s unique way of using words- playful lyrics that truly get into the story.Songs that stand out in this show are “Send In The Clowns” and “A Weekend in The Country” as well as one of my favorites “Remember”If you enjoy Sondheim, this is 2 1/2 hours of pure pleasure. The other players in ths cast,Kelly Amshoff,Kristina Burdi,Erin Renee Baumrucker,Matt Edmonds,Anna Hickey,Jon Landvick( a great Tenor voice that needs to tone his character down a bit),Elizabeth Morgan, the delightful Khaki Pixley,Greg Zawada and Tim Touhy. In this production almost every ensemble member gets to do some solo numbers- Sondheim likes to use his whole cast and it appears that Knuth follows this same concept. The sparkling choreography by Kevin Bellie and music direction by Josh Walker and lighting by Gary C. Echelmeyer and costumes by Elizabeth Powell Wistar are some of the elements that make this production worth seeing.   By the way, The Saints who have been providing service to Chicago area theaters as ushers and also make donations where needed, have besides adding themselves to the ushering staff of this theater, made a grant to Circle in order to improve their sound system- thank you Saints. Peter J. Storms certainly understands the value of your generosity. (interested in this volunteer organization? www.saintschicago.org

“A Little Night Music” will continue at Circle Theatre located at 1010 W. Madison Street in Oak park through June 5th with performances as follows:

Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets range from $24-$28 with a $2.00 discount for seniors and students

To order yours call 708-660-9540 or visit www.circle-theare.org

The theater is just east of Harlem, near public transportation and there are parking spots on the streets of Oak Park readily available.

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