POSTED ON JULY 1, 2009:
LOOK's season finale a delightful whirlwind of song, dance and wit
With A Little Night Music, which opened last Thursday in the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's John H. Williams Theatre, Light Opera Oklahoma concludes its 2009 season. And does so on a high note.
The light opera, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Hugh Wheeler, is gorgeous and enchanting and perfectly staged by LOOK's crew of outstanding singers, musicians and directors.
It begins with a cluster of five Liebeslieders, Patrick Howle, Claire Connelly, Davy Green, Christian Elser and April Golliver, which acts as a sort of Greek chorus, previewing the audience to the music and plot that is to come.
They engage in a waltz, beautifully choreographed by Laura Tyson, and are met by the musical's various principal characters, waltzing onto and off of the stage with their partners.
The story then begins with a conversation between the aging Madame Armfeldt (Judith MacDonald) and her sweet and curious granddaughter Fredrika (Megan Wilson).
Madame Armfeldt tells Fredrika that the moon smiles three times in a night--first on the young, second on the fools and third on the old.
Fredrika determines to see the moon smile three times that night.
Meanwhile, Fredrik Egerman (Ron Loyd), a successful lawyer who, 11 months prior married an 18-year-old trophy wife, Anne (Jessica Salley), and still has yet to consummate his marriage, bemoans his cold year.
Anne, giddy and nervous, hasn't been persuaded to sacrifice her virginity, but she promises that, "soon," she will.
Fredrik's son, Henrik (John Bernard), who is only one year older than Anne and a seminary student, attempts to disguise his longing for Anne, all the while being pursued by the maid, Petra (Jenna Harris).
Fredrik surprises Anne with tickets to the theater, a show starring the famous actress Desiree Armfeldt (Andrea Leap), who was, years prior to his marriage, a lover of Fredrik's.
At the theater, Anne catches Desiree sending her husband amorous smiles and, only five minutes into the play, demands they leave.
Later that evening, Fredrik seeks refuge at Desiree's hotel room. Together, they reminisce of their affair, and Fredrik boasts of his lovely young wife, garnering a few sardonic responses from Desiree, who also boasts--of her affair with a married dragoon.
Fredrik admits to Desiree that his wife has kept their marriage chaste and Desiree, as a favor to an old friend, accommodates Fredrik's desire.
Post coital, the dragoon, Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Patrick Jacobs), pompously enters Desiree's room to find Fredrick in his robe.
The pair make up some excuse about his attire, which the count doesn't quite believe, and which forces Fredrick out of the room in the robe, sopping wet clothes in hand.
Upon returning to his wife, Countess Charlotte Malcolm (Rebecca Mann), who is aware of and exasperated about her husband's infidelity, the Count replays what happened at Desiree's apartment and persuades his wife to inform Fredrik's of the goings on of that night. Charlotte's younger sister is a school friend of Anne's.
Charlotte succumbs to her husband's request and visits Anne, informing her of Fredrik's infidelity.
Anne is devastated and tells Charlotte that she and her household have just received an invitation to visit Desiree at her mother's house in the country. Charlotte encourages Anne to accept and to make Desiree look old compared to her own youth in order to win back her husband.
The dragoon has caught word of Fredrik's visit to the country and decides that he and Charlotte will also attend the party, albeit uninvited. Charlotte decides to seduce Fredrik in order to win back her own husband.
In Act Two, everyone has arrived at the Armfeldt estate. Right away the women launch into a verbal skirmish. Cal-Magnus and Fredrik begin their battle over Desiree. Henrik meets Fredrika and confesses his love for Anne.
At dinner, Charlotte flirts with Fredrik and Anne and Desiree exchange catty insults. Henrik, overwhelmed, shrieks for everyone to stop and flees the scene.
Fredrika tells Anne of Fredrik's love for her, and they rush off to find him. He has decided to commit suicide but is having a rather difficult time of it. Anne finds him, rescues him and admits her love for him. The two rush off.
Fredrik and Desiree reminisce again of their former love and wonder if they could ever love again, or if it's too late. When he discovers that his wife has left him for his son, while comforting Charlotte, who's just confessed her plot to him, he's unsurprised and unconcerned.
But, when Carl-Magnus, finding his wife in Fredrik's arms, challenges Fredrik to a game of Russian roulette, Fredrik, believing he has nothing much to live for, accepts.
He survives the game, although not uninjured, and Carl-Magnus, feeling victorious, leaves with his wife. Fredrik confesses his love for Desiree and they and Fredrika will live together as a family.
At the conclusion, Fredrika and her grandmother contemplate the meaning of love and life and try to determine when the moon has smiled that night.
The play is a favorite for its beautiful music and wry, biting dialogue, but it is the players of this production that make it so delightful.
The Liebelslieders blend perfectly with the rest of the cast, moving in and out of scenes with ease and grace. The principal cast is excellent in its delivery, not only of the show's difficult music, but also its scathing dialogue, giving it a playful and humorous tone.
The beauty of each performance is in its singer's delivery of the subtle details of the show's music and words.
Rather than portray a woman who's bitter and used up by her career in show business and an ever-revolving door of lovers, Leap's Desiree is poised and restrained. She's chosen the life she's lived and unapologetic about it. Rather than be angry when Fredrik tells her he loves her, but only in a dream, Leap's Desiree shrugs her shoulders, and her "Send in the Clowns" is a gracious anthem of chance rather than of regret.
Loyd and Leap are perfect on stage together and his performance as Fredrik is thoughtful and sincere. He's a man with no ulterior motive, who only desires love and happiness. But who isn't incapable of seeing the humor in his situation with Anne.
Anne is frivolous and silly, and Salley portrays her youth and ignorance with a sense of kindness, so that the audience has trouble simply dismissing her altogether.
Jacobs plays Carl-Magnus's pomp and vigor to the bone, without cartooning his character. And Mann as Charlotte serves almost as the comic relief (as if the play would need any) with a humorous and smart delivery of her character's sarcastic lines.
The production's costume and scenic design, by Crista Patrick and Thom Bumblauskas respectively, provide an aesthetically pleasing backdrop for the aural banquet.
The production continues in the PAC's Williams Theatre, at 110 E. Second St., July 2 and 3. July 5 is LOOK's final performance of My Fair Lady at the PAC; following that, it tours area towns.
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