Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Little Night Music (The SOB Review)

A Little Night Music (The SOB Review) – Walter Kerr Theatre, New York City, New York

*** (out of ****)

A funny thing happened on A Little Night Music's way to Broadway.

As regular readers will recall, in November 2008, I found myself absolutely swept away by Trevor Nunn's revival of Stephen Sondheim's glorious A Little Night Music at London's tiny Menier Chocolate Factory. I was swooning. I even wistfully wrote how I wished this production would find its way to the Great White Way.

Well, not quite like this. Be careful what you wish for.

This nearly replicated staging, which worked extraordinarily well in that tiny black box in London, hardly fills the stage of the Walter Kerr. While the show is still good and very much worth seeing, the quaintness across the pond could have -- should have -- been scaled appropriately upward from enhanced orchestrations (Jason Carr) to set design (David Farley) in order to fit its new venue with the luster it deserves.

What I had really wished was that the Broadway transfer would bring with it Hannah Waddingham as Desiree and Maureen Lipman as her mother Madame Armfeldt. Instead, the only actor who has made the journey across the pond is Alexander Hanson, whose exceptional rendering of Desiree's one-time love is as tender and heartfelt as ever.

As truly enchanting as the initial Menier incarnation was, what made it all the lovelier was its superb cast headlined by Waddingham. While the incandescent Catherine Zeta-Jones doesn't hold a candle to Waddingham's nuanced portrayal, her megawatt star power does light up the stage, albeit with a similarly forced "I'll prove to them I'm up to the challenge" moxie she demonstrated in "Chicago." You can't help but admire her for trying, but subtlety is not one of her strongest suits.

Fortunately, the replacement of Lipman with Angela Lansbury works infinitely better. While Hugh Wheeler's book relegates Madame Armfeldt to a wheelchair, Lansbury commands the stage every time she's on it, whether in song or in her humor-filled chiding. It's pure bliss to see her return to Broadway in a musical role.

Then there's the splendid music. While not fully orchestrated for ultimate impact, Sondheim's score must be among his most beautiful. Coupled with Wheeler's ingenious storyline, it is what really makes this Broadway revival sing, even if not nearly as rhapsodically as it did in London.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

In keeping with the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that unfairly discriminate against bloggers, who are now required by law to disclose when they have received anything of value they might write about, please note that I have received nothing of value in exchange for this post.

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At 06 June, 2010, Blogger Esther said...

This was my first exposure to A Little Night Music. Except for "Send in the Clowns" I didn't know any of the songs and I only had a vague idea of the plot. And I was really captivated by it.

The story is so absorbing and romantic and there's more humor than I thought there would be in a musical based on an Ingmar Bergman film! Plus, what a thrill to hear Angela Lansbury sing. An unforgettable experience. Plus, Catherine Zeta-Jones was so radiant. I could not take my eyes off of her. I felt like I'd been transported someplace for the afternoon.

But I can also imagine that it would be quite different to see ALNM in a tiny theatre. That must have been an incredible experience. I wish I could have seen the British cast to compare!

At 13 December, 2011, Anonymous Angie said...

I never know about the " a Little NIght Music" not until you mention it on your article. I was moved about it. Thanks for the info by the way. :D

At 14 December, 2011, Anonymous Jenny said...

I always love to witness like this on the Broadway. I never experience it in my entire life. :D


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