Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Abundance of Glitter

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Abundance of Glitter

Article excerpt

Abundance of glitter


Opera Cleveland's Night Music has a sense of style

In today's pervasive media culture of sex, skin and cleavage, Opera Cleveland's delightful production of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's A Little Night Music, presented Aug. 10-19, 2007, in the Bolton Theater of The Cleveland Play House, confirmed that a sense of style becomes amore and its aftermath. The production was directed by Paul Gurgol, who recently returned to Cleveland after living in New York for 25 years. He founded and serves as artistic director of Kalliope Stage in Cleveland Heights. Gurgol has worked at theatres across the United States, including the Actors Outlet, The Gardiner Stage and Tiffany Theater in Los Angeles.

Maria Berg portrayed Desirée as a matron who, like a good chess player, knew her moves in advance. Despite many lovely moments, Berg's performance, while authoritative, was so mannered that occasionally it was difficult to detect when actress Desirée ended and real Desirée began. She was at her best managing conflict, initiated by her mother and by the urgent attentions of Predrik and Carl-Magnus. Whether commercial, emotion-laden recordings of "Send in the Clowns" predispose an audience to expect a weepy soul-baring, new audiences might not realize that the song represents a professional woman's clear-eyed assessment of a failed project. Berg's reading was on the sniffly side.

In his even-handed portrayal of Fredrik, Kenneth Derby maintained the air of a middle-aged man calmly living in the playpen of his second childhood. Even when chastened at the show's conclusion, Derby's Fredrik was neither strident nor desperate.

The show's fizz was Erin Stewart as Fredrik's unrelentingly innocent bride, Anne. Ebullient, with a voice like glitter, she made Fredrik look as old and dusty as the pet name she had given him. Credit Phillipe Pierce with giving the lovesick puppy Henrik an appealingly contemporary earnestness. With Pierce's outstanding tenor, Derby's warm baritone and Stewart's skyrocketing soprano, the vocal textures in "Now/Later/Soon" were especially satisfying.

Jodi Brinkman turned in an outstanding performance as Henrik's willing tutor, Petra. Lucy Anders gave a wise bearing to Fredrika. Christopher Vettel brought an outrageous matter-of-fact crispness to Carl-Magnus, the unfaithful, one-dimensional dragoon whose epaulets went to his head. …

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