BWW Reviews: Hillbarn Provides A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC

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It's fitting that Stephen Sondheim wrote "A Little Night Music" as one grand waltz. When Hillbarn Theatre's production of the musical opens, a semi-narrating chorus dances in the waltz and foreshadow the characters and events about to unfold. A young girl observes their dance, following her grandmother's advice to watch the sky for its smiles. We, too, will soon smile at the follies of mankind. We will join the girl, a lively maid and a conservative student as they perceive and comment on those dancing around them.

Director Dennis Lickteig assembles his staging around these observations, resulting in a lovely production with few faults. Sondheim gave the musical a distinct, but slow pace that requires a special something to keep the energy alive. Hillbarn's production comes extremely close to meeting all those requirements with beautiful sets (designed by Robert Broadfoot) evoking the night sky and spotless orchestra. Although some of the acting falls flat and not all of Sondheim's difficult high notes are met, Lickteig has assembled an overall talented cast capable of touching the audience through poignant moments.

You'll see what I mean by mankind's follies when I try to describe the musical's plot. It's rather like a soap opera put to music, only far more beautiful and worthy of our time. Fredrik Egerman, an older man, marries Anne, a woman her late teenage years, but he actually loves actress Desiree Armfeldt, the mistress of Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm, whose poor wife is the older sister of Anne's school friend. Meanwhile, Fredrik's son, Henrik, has feelings for Anne, Petra the maid "loves" men, and Desiree's young daughter is under the supervision of her grandmother, who has had plenty of her own trysts with royalty and more in her youth. And of course, perplexity breaks loose when they all end up at the same country house for a crazy-wonderful second act.

Lee Ann Payne carries the emotional weight of the show as Desiree in a standout rendition of the famous "Bring in the Clowns," while Jack Mosbacher exhibits an incredible intensity and an amazing, wide vocal range in his short moments on stage. Christine Macomber wins audiences over with her strict, but romantically sung Leonora Armfeldt, Desiree's mother. Nicolette Norgaard's Anne has a contagious youthful air. Sarah Griner shines in her second act solo, "The Miller's Son." Alicia Teeter brings a sophisticated charm to the Count's wife, while William Giammona adds sufficient humor to the fairly dramatic musical. CameRon Weston has a sweet, calming voice as Fredrik. Mark Enea, Tabitha Tetreault, Maria Mikheyenko, John Rinaldi and Stephanie Case serve as the Greek chorus of sorts, providing gorgeous melodies during scene transitions.

The cast deserves strong kudos for tacking Sondheim's difficult music - difficult, but beautiful and angelic to listeners' ears - a little night music worth observing and listening to.

Through June 2
Hillbarn Theatre Company

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From This Author Harmony Wheeler