Monomoy Opens Season With Sondheim's Sublime 'A Little Night Music'

By: Joan Tacke Aucoin

Stephen Sondheim's 1973 Tony Award winning musical is Monomoy Theatre's brilliant season opening production running for the next two weeks. House lights up, curtain drawn, orchestra in fine tune, fabulous

acting, strong and impressive voices, exquisite costuming in silks and satins, simple set design, and in perfect step. The Monomoy Players sponsored by the University of Hartford take center stage in the petite, historic, air-conditioned theater on Main Street. Maestro, please let the magic begin.

"Send in the Clowns" is the most popular number from Sondheim's award-winning score. It is a show stopper reprised twice, and you will wish to sing along. Hugh Wheeler's book on the romantic escapades and disappointments of several couples enacted is said to have been named and founded on Mozart's Serenade No. 13 for strings and Ingmar Berman's 1955 film, "Smiles of a Summer Night." Bergman begged to differ after seeing the show. Set in Sweden at the turn of the century, the overture introduces couples in a lively waltz of pairings. I could not help but wonder how my four Swedish great-aunts who introduced me to the Monomoy Theatre a very, very long time ago would have have reviewed the action. They were prim, proper, fiercely independent, and a bit saucy, too.

Monomoy favorites Holly Holcomb, Mary O'Brady, Ricky Oliver and Colleen Welsh return to star under Artistic Director Alan Rust's finely detailed messaging. Leave the children at home for this one, teens will be curious, however. It is an adult-themed show. Love, marriage, seduction, virginity, mistresses, a teen trophy wife, a

lawyer versus a viperous militaristic dragoon, a ministry student feeling teased, a diva actress and her aging mom, morbidity, champagne, croquet, and second chances.

Holly Holcomb becomes the Diva Desiree Armfeldt leading a Victorian women's march of planning, plotting, seducing, succeeding at finding clarity with the men they have loved after "so many years of muddle."

Holcomb's performance is star quality. While on tour Desiree reunites with her former lover, a kindly stuffed shirt lawyer Fredrik Egerman. Ricky Oliver is the professional at a loss of words in finding happiness "Now." Oliver endears himself to the audience. Holcomb and Oliver keep their chemistry in perfect pitch and believability.

In a vibrant number, "It's a Glamorous Life," Desiree ignites the evening with her former beau, teen daughter Fredrika (young Laura Axelrod is outstanding), her grand dame mother Madame Armfeldt (Mary O'Brady is stately, calming, wise), Maid Osamalla (Kristen Van Derlyn), and a colorful, talented chorus of Liebeslieders whose

waltzing introductions to Acts One and Two are truly elegant.

Fredrik tries to convince Desiree and himself that he is truly a happy man with a gorgeous, 18-year-old virgin wife, "You must Meet My Wife." Madame Armfeldt's wisdom cautions all about strange "Liasons." Fredrik also has a grown son Henrik ( Wolfe Lanier) who adds comic frustration as a seminary student moaning for attention.

Enter the brassy dragoon Count Carol-Magnus Malcolm impressed by himself (a dashing Gregory Rodriquez) with all the answers "In Praise of Woman." The Count just happens to be Desiree's present lover, being married to another woman is considered to be just a small snag. The Count's wife Countess Charlotte (Colleen Welsh, bold and beautiful) pairs up with Fredrik's young wife Anne (Olivia Fenton is lovely, polished, and in high energy form). The cast-aside wife meets the innocent trophy wife in a duet "Every Day a Little Death." Watch for maid Petra's earthy show finale. Mary Berthelsen provides a steamy, eye-popping closer.

"A Little Night Music" will truly transport you to the world of entertainment for a sublime summer's evening under a full moon where the women come to total agreement: "Mouths to be kissed before mouths to be fed." Phil Rittner's orchestra sits high atop Matthew Crane's aesthetically pleasing balcony adorned by French doors. Simple

seating areas move fluidly across the stage as do the choristers. Alison Pugh's lavish gowns made me think of Edith Head's gorgeous movie costuming. What a treat to have Chatham's own dance master Adam Spencer choreograph the show. We raise our champagne glasses to welcome this year's Monomoy Players, Equity guest artists, and Hartt

School of Music students. Here's to the magic in "A Little Night Music"!

 

DETAILS:
“A Little Night Music”

At Monomoy Theatre

Through July 1

Information and reservations: 508-945-1589, monomoytheatre.org