Regional Reviews: San Francisco
A Little Night Music
This marks the fifth time I have seen this beautiful musical, having seen the original at the Shubert Theatre in 1973 and then three productions in the West End over the years. The last time I saw this striking musical was at the Royal National Theatre with Dame Judi Dench playing Desiree.
Stephen Sondheim's score is lovely and the waltz melody at the beginning of the show is exquisite. This time, five beautiful singers, with the main characters briskly dancing in and out of the action, open the show. The score's complicated syncopations and amazing harmonies are ravishing to the ear. Without a doubt, this is one of the best scores written in the 20th century. A Little Night Music is somewhat like La Ronde, as husbands, wives, mistresses, and lovers interchange relationships on a balmy Swedish midsummer night.
Karen Ziemba is the perfect Desiree. She has great comic timing, especially when Frederik sings "You Must Meet My Wife." Her interpretation of "Send in the Clowns" in the second act has a distinguishing caustic style and she makes every word count.
Patrick Cassidy is excellent as Frederik. He displays his unresolved passion for his virgin wife in the song "Now" and his fantasy description of her in "You Must Meet My Wife." He has a powerful voice. Justin Scott Brown is pitch perfect as the sex-obsessed seminarian Henrik. He has a good, strong voice in the song "Later." Laurie Veldheer as the child bride Anne, who is afraid of sex, shows excellent fervent inconsistencies. Her duet with Charlotte, "Every Day a Little Death," is charming.
Paolo Montalban is first class as the pompous and stuffily rigid dragoon Count Carl-Magnus. It is a vociferous performance by this well-groomed singer. Emily Skinner is fine as his wife the Countess Charlotte, the sarcastic woman who puts on a brave face while watching her husband have various affairs. Both have wonderful voices.
Dana Ivey is exceptional as Madame Armfeldt. She makes "Liaisons" her own by singing it with a leisurely and sensory feeling. Marissa McGowan as the maid Petra comes into her own with a sensual rendition of "The Miller's Son" in the second act. Brigid O'Brien is delightful as the young Fredrika, the illegitimate daughter of Desiree learning about life from the world-wise Madame Armfeldt. Michael Mcintire gives good account of himself playing the butler Frid.
The Greek chorus offers luxuriant, lyrical waltzes with the great voices of Brandon Dahlquist, Christine Capsuto, Annemaria Rajala, Caitlan Taylor, and Andres Ramirez.
Scenic designer Riccardo Hernandez and costume designer Candice Donnelly have created a wonderful, lush production. The orchestra under the direction of Wayne Barker gives out a great sound. Once again, Mark Lamos and the cast have done Sondheim proud.
A Little Night Music plays through June 21st, 2015, at the American Conservatory Theatre, 450 Geary Street, San Francisco For tickets 415-749-2250 or visit www.act-sf.org. The new A.C.T. Strand Theatre on Market Street across from Civic Center Plaza opens this week with Caryl Churchill's Love and Information.