What can I possibly write to make you stop whatever it is you are doing and get tickets to see “A Little Night Music” which has just opened at the White Plains Performing Arts Center – the sophisticated and haunting look into the lives and loves of a group of early twentieth century Swedish citizens in three-quarter time. Promises and lies. Lost youth. Lost love. Wives and mistresses. Repressed sexual desire. Sex-capades during a weekend in the country. Everyone with the wrong person. All touched upon in the Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) and Hugh Wheeler (book) musical based on Ingmar Bergman’s “Smiles of a Summer Night”.
Do I start with the courage of Jack Batman, executive producer, to take on the monumental challenge of mounting such a difficult and complex show and pulling it off without a hitch? Do I start with the mesmerizing Penny Fuller who is giving a deeply profound performance as Desiree Armfeldt – singing one of the best renditions of “Send in the Clowns” I’ve ever heard? Do I start with the superb direction of Sidney J. Burgoyne? The strength and inner turmoil of Mark Jacoby? The naiveté of Erin Davie? The great humor of Rachel de Benedet? The bravura of Stephen R. Buntrock? The Tony Award worthy performance of Sheila Smith? There is a wealth of treasures to be found in this production. It is a colossal achievement that each and every member of the cast and production team can be very proud of.
Every production at WPPAC is excellent. But they have raised the bar on this one. And have met the challenge. On a sparse but perfectly suitable set (Michael Hotopp) with some period pieces of furniture with excellent costumes (T. Michael Hall) and exceptional lighting (Jesse Belsky) with a larger than usual orchestra, under the outstanding direction of James Bassi, Sondheim and Wheeler’s world waltzes into place. It’s a beautiful production. Even the set changes are executed with dance like movement – in striking silhouette. Wonderful choices have been made. Wonderful attention to detail makes for an elegant and thought provoking evening of musical theatre.
The voices. Oh, those fabulous voices. It is amazing that they were able to cast the most perfect person for each part. Every single one has an incredible voice. And without singers of this caliber to sing this difficult and clever score – forget it. Did I mention how good the sound is (Wallace Flores)? How the choreography and musical staging (Melissa Rae Mahon and Sean McKnight) keep the many scenes in swirling motion? How delightful and sexy is Petra (Laura D’Andre)? How right and moving is Henrik (Eddie Egan)?
There is always talk about “chemistry”. Do they have it or not? A Little Night Music has enough chemistry and sexual tension to cause a major explosion on Main Street, White Plains. See it now. In the most comfortable seats imaginable. At an affordable price. You might never get this chance again. Unless it moves itself to Broadway.