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A CurtainUp DC Review
A Little Night Music

The summer night smiles. Three times. At the follies of human beings, of course. The first smile smiles at the young who know nothing. The second, at the fools who know too little .... And the third who know too much — like me. Madame Leonora Armfeldt.
A Little Night Music
Holly Twyford as Desiree Aarmfeldt and Bobby Smith as Fredrik Egerman (Photo by Christopher Muelle)
Stephen Sondheim's operetta A Little Night Music at Signature Theatre begins (as do most productions of this masterpiece) with artists vocalizing — strongly — in a harbinger of the beautiful sounds to come. As more characters enter the stage, the volume increases. The performers then engage in a waltz-like dance that involves changing partners. Even though the choreography is clumsy and distracting, the symbolism is easy to deduce.

As Madame Leonora Armfeldt, mother of Desiree, and grandmother of Fredrika, whose white hair, aristocratic demeanor and empathetic delivery of Hugh Wheeler's clever lines results in a faultless performance. She is regal as she recalls her many love affairs and prescient when she speaks of what happens on summer nights. Her daughter Desiree, however, an actress who is constantly on tour, has much less gravitas. She loves a good time and damns the consequences.

Holly Twyford, a well known and well liked Washington-based actress, takes on her first singing role as Desiree. Her voice is not strong but sweet enough to convey the sentiment in "Send in the Clowns." (Why she looks away from her lover in this number is odd ... but that's how she plays it.) She certainly conveys the flair an emotive actress would be prone to display off stage, especially in the bedroom. It's easy to believe that men would be smitten by her charm. It helps of course that she looks stunning in Robert Perdziola's excquisite costumes.

As the lawyer Frederik Egerman, the one man Desiree has always loved more than any of her many lovers, Bobby Smith gives his best performance for Signature to date. No gimmicks, no mugging. Egerman's marriage to the very young, very annoying Anne (played by a shrill Nicki Elledge), evokes sympathy from the other characters, as well as the occasional snide remark at his expense.

There are no small parts someone said, and that is certainly true of the vignettes in A Little Night Music. Sam Ludwig as Frederik Egerman's son, Hedrik, is very funny as the tightly controlled mournful cello-playing would-be seminary student who has to be taught how to exert his passion. The always reliable Will Gartshore's dim-witted Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm, is good fun as is the very gifted Tracy Lynn Olivera as his long-suffering wife, Countess Charlotte Malcolm. Tracy Lynn Olivera has a great voice, a strong stage presence and perfect comic timing.

Signature is known for several aspects of engaging theater, its selection of very good voices, for instance. Standouts in this production are Kevin McAllister as Mr. Lindquist and Maria Rizzo as the lusty maid (but hardly a maiden) Petra.

Production values, here represented by Paul Tate Depoo III's set made from strips of I-don't-know-what reflect perfectly the changes in lighting and mood provided by Lighting Designer Colin K. Bills. And the 12-piece orchestra, under the baton of Jon Kalbfleisch, that is housed on a platform above the back of the stage, performed perfectly. Responsible for all that parts that make up this whole evening of pleasure is Director Eric Schaeffer, a very gifted interpreter of Sondheim's work.

As Mme Armfeldt says at the end of the evening, "A great deal seems to be going on in this house tonight." Indeed.
Musical Numbers
Act One
    Night Waltz - Company Now - Fredrik Later - Henrik Soon - Anne, Henrik, Fredrik The Glamorous Life - Fredrika, Desirée, Madame Armfeldt, Mrs Nordstrom, Mrs Segstrom, Mrs Anderssen, Mr Lindquist, Mr Erlanson Remember? - Mr Lindquist, Mrs Nordstrom, Mrs Segstrom, Mr Erlanson You Must Meet My Wife- Fredrik, Desirée Liaisons - Madame Armfeldt In Praise of Women - Carl-Magnus Every Day A Little Death - Charlotte, Anne A Weekend in the Country
Act Two
    The Sun Won't Set - Mrs Anderssen, Mrs Nordstrom, Mrs Segstrom, Mr Lindquist, Mr Erlanson It Would Have Been Wonderful - Fredrik, Carl-Magnus Perpetual Anticipation - Mrs Anderssen, Mrs Nordstrom, Mrs Segstrom Send in the Clowns: Desirée The Miller's Son: Petra Finale - The Company

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A Little Night Music
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; book by Hugh Wheeler; suggested by a film by Ingmar Bergman; originally produced and directed on Broadway by Harold Prince; Music Direction by Jon Kalbfleisch; Choreography by Karma Camp; Directed by Eric Schaeffer; Scenic Design by Paul Tate Depoo III; Costume Design by Robert Perdziola; Lighting Design by Colin K. Bills; Sound Design by Ryan Hickey.
Cast: Florence Lacey (Madame Leonora Armfeldt); Anna Grace Nowalk (Frederika Armfeldt); Kevin McAllister (Frid; Mr. Lindquist); Sam Ludwig (Henrik Egerman); Nicki Elledge (Anne Egerman); Fredrik Egerman (Bobby Smith); Maria Rizzo (Petra); Susan Derry (First Lady, Mrs. Segstrom); Maria Egler (Second Lady, Mrs. Anderssen); Holly Twyford (Desiree Armfeldt); Will Gartshore (count Carl-Magnus Malcolm); Tracy Lynn Olivera (Countess Charlotte Malcolm); Quynh-My Luu (Mrs. Nordstrom); Benjamin Lurye (Mr. Erlanson).
Running time 2 hours and 45 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission. Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, Va.; 703-820-9771;; August 15 through October 8, 2017. Reviewed by Susan Davidson, August 23, 2017 performance.

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