‘A Little Night Music’ is a little light fun

 

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Ensemble of BoHo Theatre's A Little Night Music
Ensemble of BoHo Theatre’s A Little Night Music

Widower Fredrik Egerman (Peter Robel) seeks to regain his youth by wedding eighteen year old Anne (Rachel Guth). However, his home from seminary, son Henrik (Jordan Dell Harris), falls in love with her even while learning “the ways of the world” from housemaid Petra (Teressa LaGamba).

Meanwhile, as a result of Anne’s sexual inexperience, Fredrik seeks solace in the arms of his more mature former lover and stage phenomenon, Desiree Armfeldt (Kelli Harrington).

Their dalliance is complicated by her relationship with Count Carl-Magnus Malcom (Christopher Davis) and his wife Countess Charlotte Malcom (Stephanie Stockstill).

Mme. Armfeldt (Marguerite Mariama) and her granddaughter Fredrika (Isabelle Roberts) are observers who offer the perspective of experience and youth to this sordid but humorous tale of infidelity, romance and search for love in all the wrong places.

An ensemble of minor players (Nicole Besa, Rachel Klippel, Emily Goldberg, Lazaro Estrada and Ross Matsuda) fill in various roles and act as a kind of Greek Chorus adding commentary and moving the plot along.

Directed by Linda Fortunato, the production is successful in large part to the clever book by Hugh Wheeler with music and lyrics by the incomparable Stephen Sondheim and skillfully performed by an extraordinary four piece orchestra.

They are Mike Matlock, Sarah Kim and Magdalena Sustere led by piano/conductor Tom Vendafreddo. Orchestrations are by Jonathan Tunik with re-orchestrations by Malcolm Ruhl. This is a small space which allows for an acoustical performance with no amplification.

Overall the singing was good though at times a few of the performers struggled with the challenges presented by the irregular rhythms and unusual melodies of Sondheim’s score as well as finding the requisite power to push out the necessary volume in the lower registers.

Harrington did not disappoint us with her much anticipated performance of “Send in the Clowns” which is the best known tune in the production. Having never seen this before the song in context makes much more sense.

Stephanie Stockstill and Rachel Guth in BoHo Theatre's A Little Night Music
Stephanie Stockstill and Rachel Guth in BoHo Theatre’s A Little Night Music

Christina Leinicke’s costumes were appropriate to the period but seemed a mixed bag borrowed from various productions ranging from shabby to chic. The Count’s tunics were especially distracting as they seemed a bit small and the sash out of proportion. There were two standout dresses in the theater scene worn by two minor characters that were beautifully designed. Also Fredrika’s dresses were appropriate and cute.

Teressa LaGamba as Petra seems to be having the most fun which might be because she is having sex with virtually everyone she meets. Her performance of “The Miller’s Son” is a standout on Act Two.

Likewise, Jordan Dell Harris is making the most of the over-the-top sexually repressed Henrik.  Anne is full of youthful exuberance but might want to dial it back a bit at times to give some contrast to her enjoyable performance.

Stephanie Stockstill as the Countess has the nuance I expect for a farce. She shares her thoughts convincingly with the audience and it is obvious she has internalized her character.

I know that BoHo likes to make their productions accessible by projecting a more modern sensibility but the effect is a feeling that the actors are struggling with the dialog at times when the language is more formal.

In the case of Robel, he needs to take control of the stage. In spite of his character’s insecurity he should project the authority of a nineteenth century lawyer. Since he is dominated in stature by the imposing frame of his nemesis Count Carl he needs to compensate with an exaggerated sense of superiority.

Since this is a farce, the audience is in on the joke and should be included more.

There is an old adage that singers should not lean on the piano likewise actors should not gravitate toward every piece of furniture on stage. Especially in a musical, the actors should stand and deliver. This cast spends too much time sitting and it makes them look small and insignificant.

The ensemble was terrific and really lifted the energy level. A special shout-out to Lazaro Estrada who is making his Chicago debut and let his presence be known with his wonderful tenor voice and infectious smile. He appears happy to be here.

In summary this is a fun evening’s entertainment.  Fast-paced, it moves along quickly.

DETAILS: “A Little Night Music,” a BoHo Theatre production at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, runs through July 8, 2018. Running time: 2 hrs, 30 min, with one intermission. For tickets and information call (773) 404-7336 or visit BoHo Theatre .

Reno Lovison

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