A Lot of Messing Around
by Michael Dresdner
|L to R: Casi Pruitt, Jonathan Bill All photos by Dennis K Photography|
The Stephen Sondheim musical A Little Night Music, guest-directed by Lakewood Playhouse artistic director John Munn, opened last night at Tacoma Little Theatre to a crowd that was both appreciative and, I suspect, familiar with the play.
Set in fin de siècle Sweden and based on Ingmar Bergman’s film Smiles of a Summer Night, it revolves around the dalliances of several disenchanted and unfaithful couples. By the end, couples get together, get back together, or rearrange themselves into new unions. There’s plenty of bed-hopping and jealously inducing game playing, but ultimately they all end up happier than when they began. This is the main difference between theatre and real life.
|L to R: Juliet Hollifield, Hayley Ewerz|
Fredrick Egerman (Jonathan Bill) is a middle aged lawyer who has a 19-year-old son, Henrik (Will Johnson), and is married to an 18-year-old trophy wife, Anne (Juliet Hollifield.) After 11 months, she’s still a virgin, and is secretly lusted after by her sexually unsophisticated stepson Henrik. No worries; Fredrick solves his frustration by reconnecting with an old flame, actress Desiree Armfeldt (Cassi Pruitt) who is, if not the town pump, at least liberal in her bedroom affections. She has a daughter (Julianna Guzman-Ferreira) who is somewhat suspicously named Fredrika. Desiree frequently dallies with a married Count (Jamey Cheek,) which inspires his wife (Alyssa Hersey) to craft a jealousy-inducing plot to end his roving.
|L to R: Dominic Girolami, Rosalie Hilburn, Grace Wilkerson, Julianna Guzman-Ferreira|
All is brought to a head when the whole gang shows up at the estate of Desiree’s mother, the wise, wheelchair-bound matron Madame Armfeldt (Rosalie Hilburn). Here among the trees they are all free to romp and play, and eventually sort themselves out into happier pairs.
|L to R: The Greek Chorus: Erik Davis, Kira Leigh Vega, Heidi Walworth-Horn, Caryl Dowd, Chap Wolff|
Singing was generally excellent throughout the entire cast, with both leads and ancillary cast members, like the Greek chorus, exhibiting the vocal chops of well trained singers. While musicals often sacrifice acting for voice, this one offered some performances worth noting, including Julianna Guzman-Ferreira as young Fredricka, Hayley Ewerz as the lusty maid Petra, Rosalie Hilburn as the reserved but wise Madame Arnfeldt, Jonathan Bill as Henrik Egerman, and last, but certainly not least, Casi Pruitt as Desiree. She also gets a nod for doing such an excellent job on the one song everyone comes to hear, the haunting and beautiful Send in the Clowns.
Since much of Act II takes place in the woods, the set, by Blake York, was minimalist, consisting almost entirely of white-painted movable hanging panels with adroit cutouts to make them look like stands of birch trees. Those, like me, who are given to pareidolia (go ahead – click on it – I’ll wait) will be delighted to find random faces in the woods. When rooms were needed, they were created by furniture moved on and off stage.
|L to R: Alyssa Hersey, Jamey Creek|
Costumes by Michele Graves were extravagant and superb. Niclas Olson’s lighting was spot on (pardon the pun), as were hair, makeup, and props by Jeffery Weaver. Choreography was by Lexi Barnett, and stage manager Courtney Rainer, assisted by ASM Grace Wilkerson, who also had a small on-stage role, kept the busy show running smoothly.
Music, under the direction of Deborah Lynn Armstrong, was provided by an adept onstage orchestra (Kelly Marsh, Alonso Tirado, Kailee Wright, Erika Fiebig, Rose Nicholson) peeking out from behind the trees.
Curiously, the program’s aptly named director’s note, which is often about the play or the experience creating it, was instead about the director himself. It’s a choice.
This 1973 classic will delight Sondheim fans with its complex music and equally complex set of relationships. There’s plenty afoot to keep your attention, and some damned good singing and acting to boot.
A Little Night Music
March 8 to 31, 2019
Tacoma Little Theatre