Review: A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC at Central Florida Vocal Arts

A glorious and vocally powerful production of this rarely produced Sondheim classic at the Dr. Phillips Center through August 20th

By: Aug. 19, 2023
Review: A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC at Central Florida Vocal Arts
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Review: A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC at Central Florida Vocal Arts There is something extremely refreshing when a theatre company gives its patrons the opportunity to experience a rare gem. Now, there’s nothing wrong with producing a show that is popular with the masses, but out of the thousands of musicals out there waiting to be performed, giving a rarely produced and underappreciated property the chance to breathe on the stage is, to me, the ultimate gift to theatre fans. That is why I was thrilled to have the chance to experience A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC – the season opener for Orlando’s Central Florida Vocal Arts (CFVA) at the Dr. Phillips Center. And I am here to tell you, CFVA’s production is absolutely magnificent – and one that you simply do not want to miss.

Review: A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC at Central Florida Vocal Arts With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Harold Wheeler, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC centers on a few couples searching for love and purpose in turn-of-the-20th-century Sweden. We meet Fredrik Egerman (Alex Mansoori) a middle-aged lawyer, recently wed to 18-year-old Anne (Molly Jarvis) who remains a virgin even after eleven months of marriage to Fredrik. Henrik (Evan Couch) is Fredrik’s grown son from his first marriage, a seminary student only a year older than his new stepmother. Fredrik soon “reconnects” with an old flame, the stage actress Desiree Armfeldt (Maeghin Mueller) which sets into motion a series of comic encounters, first with Desiree’s jealous, but dim-witted current lover, the Dragoon, Count Carl-Magnus Malcom (David Bracamonte), who enlists his own wife, Countess Charlotte Malcom (Yara Williams) in a plot to get revenge on Fredrik for trying to steal Desiree from him. All the players are soon invited (or invite themselves) for “A Weekend in the Country” at Desiree’s mother’s estate, something former courtesan Madame Armfeldt (Jessica Hoehn) reluctantly agrees to, providing a fascinating scene for Desiree’s young daughter, Fredrika (Ashley Van Kirk) to witness. Tensions naturally arise on the grounds of the chateau, but love is in the air, and not just for the aristocratic families – even maid Petra (McKenzie Pollock) and manservant, Frid (AJ Morales) are not immune to its pull. As with most musical comedies, things work out for the best in the end – allowing the night to “smile” it’s three times, as Mme. Armfeldt tells young Fredrika, for the young, the fools and for the old as well.

CFVA’s production of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC was my first opportunity to see a production of this classic musical live on stage. I have long been a fan of Sondheim’s waltz-infused score including signature songs from the piece, such as the hit “Send in the Clowns” and the lesser known, but powerfully beautiful “The Miller’s Son”. Seeing Harold Wheeler’s story unfold onstage, and weave together with the familiar score was magical. The book is solid, quite funny and supports Sondheim’s glorious melodies well.

Stage Director Eric Pinder and Music Director Dr. Jeffrey Redding have done a truly brilliant job bringing together this highly talented cast. Mr. Pinder’s direction is well-paced, and he balances the comedic and more fluid romantic moments on stage. Dr. Redding’s vocal work ensures that this cast elevates the Sondheim score to a new level – delivering some stunning and memorable musical moments.

Review: A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC at Central Florida Vocal Arts As noted, the cast of CFVA’s A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC is truly marvelous. Each actor fully embodies their role and tackles the complex, yet glorious Sondheim score with skill. The talented Quintet (Alexis Smith, Stefanie Diaz, Annalycia Franklin, John Teixeira and Gavin Waid) provide the vocal underscore to the evening, acting as a “Greek chorus” of sorts, sharing the inner thoughts of the characters on stage and moving the plot along. As Fredrik, Alex Mansoori’s performance is effortlessly smooth and he has a number of lovely vocal moments throughout. Molly Jarvis as his young bride, Anne, is energetic and effusive and as his son, Henrik, Evan Couch is marvelously moody. David Bracamonte and Yara Williams, as The Count and Countess, are very well suited for their roles, delivering some of the most comical and entertaining moments of the evening. McKenzie Pollock is great as the maid Petra, and delivers a haunting and memorable rendition of “The Miller’s Son”. Jessica Hoehn is a joy to watch as the deliciously wry and brutally honest Mme. Armfeldt and Ashley Van Kirk does a great job as the young Fredrika. Every time Maeghin Mueller takes the stage as Desiree Armfeldt, all eyes are on her and it is like all the air has been sucked from the room. Her performance as the famous actress is one that I will not soon forget. Her delivery is boisterous but not over-the-top and she has the audience in the palm of her hand from her very first moments in the show. Her energy is palpable, her presence gravitational, and her delivery of “Send in the Clowns” is an absolute highlight - showstopping and tear-inducing at the same time.

Review: A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC at Central Florida Vocal Arts In terms of creative production, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC takes a simple, yet extremely effective approach, leaning on beautiful projections and strategically placed furniture (from Lighting/Scenic/Set/Prop designer Brady Davidson). And though this is my first opportunity to see this musical on stage I am convinced to do it right it must always have a top-notch orchestra like the one employed in this CFVA production. The sound from the Space Coast Symphony Orchestra is flawless and absolutely phenomenal, and as conducted by Aaron Collins, weaves a musical tapestry that is beautiful to behold.

With A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, Central Florida Vocal Arts delivers a beautifully imagined, musically stunning performance of a rare, underappreciated classic Stephen Sondheim musical. It is highly entertaining, extremely memorable and quite funny as well. As of this writing, there are only a few seats left for the remaining performances, so don’t wait or you might miss the chance to experience this wonderful production for yourself!

Review: A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC at Central Florida Vocal Arts

A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, presented by Central Florida Vocal Arts runs Saturday, August 19th at 8:00 PM and Sunday, August 20th at 3:00 PM. Tickets are $35 - $45. Performances take place at The Alexis and Jim Pugh Theatre of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 445 S. Magnolia Avenue, Orlando, Florida 32801. Tickets can be purchased by visiting https://www.CentralFloridaVocalArts.org.

Photo credit: Gontran Durocher




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