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Pittsburgh by Ann Miner


A Little Night Music

A Little Night Music
Stephen Bogardus and Dee Hoty
A Little Night Music has waltzed into Pittsburgh for a brief run at the Benedum for Pittsburgh CLO. The score by Stephen Sondheim is rich and intricate (in variations of three-quarter time), and Hugh Wheeler's book (suggested by the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night) is witty and romantic. When well performed, it's a delightful show with interwoven plot points and an assortment of romantic pairings that offer examples of the many sides of romance. The CLO production is an accomplished and satisfying production, serving as a wonderful start to this very diverse season.

The basic story, set in turn-of-the-century Sweden, revolves around Fredrik Egerman (Stephen Bogardus), his young wife Anne (Christeena Riggs), and his former lover Desirée Armfeldt (Dee Hoty). Fredrik claims his first year with Anne has been marvelous but soon reveals there is something missing, and he cannot forget Desirée, an actress who happens to be appearing locally. Desirée's current suitor is Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Robert Newman), who has a unique marital situation of his own, with his wife Charlotte (Beth Leavel) informed and "understanding" of the Count's appetite for women. Fredrik's son Henrik (Aaron Ramey), a young and unsure divinity student, is more than infatuated with his stepmother Anne. The turns of the plot which rearrange several couples may make the goings on seem lightweight and inconsequential, mostly due to the humor and some outsized personalities, but the underlying pains and longings of the characters (as illustrated mostly by Sondheim's pointed lyrics) ground the story in serious emotion.

Stephen Bogardus and Dee Hoty are excellent in their roles. Bogardus' brilliance grows as the show progresses, and his singing is superb. Hoty brings great depth to her role, one in which she is perfectly cast, with her "Send in the Clowns" evoking all of the sentiments that are occassionally missed by other interpretations. Both actors are great to watch and to hear, and they make a convincing couple.
A Little Night Music
Robert Newman and Beth Leavel
The widely publicized casting of Robert Newman (known for his television work, thought he has performed on stage many times) is acceptable; most of his singing is good, but his contribution to "It Would Have Been Wonderful" was disappointing on opening night. He provides the larger than life personality nearly large enough, though he could go bigger and stronger with his voice and bluster. As Charlotte, the solid and dependable Beth Leavel mines the bitterness and sting of a woman who is wronged by, but still loves, her husband.

Other notable cast members are Christeena Riggs (Les Miserables, Two Cities, Jane Eyre), whose Anne is appropriately childlike and simple, and Aaron Ramey (Thoroughly Modern Mille, Take Flight, The Woman Upstairs), who shows Henrik's growth with great subtlety and charm. Both performers have beautiful voices and make wonderful impressions in her CLO debuts.

Linda Hacker's sets are ample and appropriate for this one-week production, going from indoor to outdoor with ingenuity. The costumes provided by Costume World, Inc. and Odds Costumes are simply gorgeous and contribute greatly to the period look of this production. Direction and choreography by Barry Ivan works well most of the time, but there seems to be just a bit of sluggishness overall, and a noticeable deliberateness to some of the dance that could improve the pace if tightened.

The CLO Orchestra (Musical Coordinator Frank Ostrowski and Musical Arranger James Drake) are glorious as usual.

A Little Night Music continues at The Benedum Center through Sunday, June 12. For ticket and performance information, call 412-456-6666 or visit http://www.pittsburghclo.org/.

A Little Night Music, presented by Pittsburgh CLO, Van Kaplan, Executive Producer. Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by Hugh Wheeler. Originally produced and directed by Harold Prince. Directed/Choreographed by Barry Ivan. Musical Director Tom Helm. Lighting Designer John McLain. Scenery Designer Linda Hacker. Costumes by Costume World, Inc. and Odds Costumes.

Cast: Stephen Bogardus (Fredrik Egerman), Michelle Dawson (Petra), Dee Hoty (Desirée Armfeldt), Louisa Flaningam (Madame Armfeldt), Beth Leavel (Countess Charlotte Malcolm), Robert Newman (Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm) Christeena Riggs (Anne Egerman).

Lyric Beth Ackelson (Fredrika Armfeldt), Amy Barker (Mrs. Segstrom), Becky Barta (Mrs. Anderssen), Greggory Brandt (Mr. Lindquist), Case Dillard (Bertrand), Jeremy S. Holm (Frid), Rebecca Robbins (Mrs. Nordstrom), Mark Sanders (Mr. Erlanson), Laura Steen (Osa/Malla).


Photos: Matt Polk


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-- Ann Miner

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