Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Power of Imagination: St. Louis Theatre Delineates Night Music's Characters

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Power of Imagination: St. Louis Theatre Delineates Night Music's Characters

Article excerpt

Stages St. Louis' production of A Little Night Music began with a bit of whimsy. When the curtain rose, young Fredrika Armfeldt was playing with puppets in a toy theatrr. On the similar-looking stage around her, the five members of the chorus reacted as if their strings were being pulled, too. This little joke was over quickly. Fredrika placed the toy theatre on a stage-right pedestal as she exited, quelling any fears of a high concept putting all of the action in the young woman's mind. Still, the effect of her movements on the quintet was a striking reminder of the power of the imagination to see more in what is around us than is really there.

Director Michael Hamilton invoked this power when he specified locations with minimal scenery and props. The dinner scene at the Armfeldt estate dispensed with the dinner table, seating the actors in a semicircle facing the audience. Because resetting the stage did not interrupt the flow of the scenes, the show had an enlivening pace.

James Wolk's set design used rich wall panels in a palette of turquoise, cream and gold for interior spaces. For outdoors, a few panels revealed just enough wooded landscape to signal the new location. Dorothy Marshall Englis' costumes were sumptuous.

The hallmark of this production was the exceptionally vivid delineation of character in the songs. Musical Director Al Fischer set predominantly slow tempos that may have challenged the breath control of the singers, but they used the extra time to bring out fine shades of meaning in the words and music. Understanding the lyrics was never a problem, thanks to the careful balance between the voices and Stuart M. Elmore's computer-generated realization of the orchestral score.

Kari Ely was a marvel as Desirée Armfeldt. Her combination of mature beauty, resourcefulness and personal magnetism seemed irresistible until her former lover, Fredrik Egerman, refused her offer of a coherent existence. In the wake of this rejection, Ely's "Send in the Clowns" was a compelling depiction of raw emotion penetrating a façade of composure.

Corinne Melançon resisted all temptation to find humor in Countess Charlotte Malcolm's desolation over the infidelity of her husband, Carl-Magnus. "Every Day a Little Death" was pure heartbreak in Melançon's interpretation. In this number Pamela Brumley, as Anne also avoided easy comedy, instead sustaining the pathos, showing that Anne was moved by her friend's predicament. …

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