‘A Little Night Music’ at The Arlington Players at The Mead Center by Doug Poms

A Little Night Music, the 1973 Tony Award Best Musical winner, features one of Stephen Sondheim’s loveliest scores, filled with grand waltzes, witty barbs and poignant ballads (including the popular standard, “Send in the Clowns”). The Arlington Players’ delightful production at the Mead Center for American Theater’s Kogod Cradle Theater does this beautiful score sweet justice. The Arlington Player’s lost their regular performing space, Thomas Jefferson High School, as a result of last year’s unusual earthquake, but they seem to have really benefitted from the use of this excellent performance space. The Kogod Cradle Theater’s amazing acoustics allow the 20-piece orchestra and uniformly solid cast members to sound wonderful throughout the show.

Desiree ( Heather Friedman) and Fredrik (Brent Stone) confront their muddled pasts. Photo courtesy of The Arlington Players.

A Little Night Music (with a book by Hugh Wheeler, inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film, Smiles of a Summer Night) is the story of romantic couples, their relations and servants, during the height of light-filled summer in Sweden at the turn on the 20th century. The newly married Fredrik Egerman (Brent Stone) takes his new bride Anne to go see actress Desiree Armfeldt (Heather Friedman), who unbeknownst to Anne, is Fredrik’s former lover, perform and the love lives of many of the show’s characters are shuffled, much like the waltz’s that populate the gorgeous score and fine choreography by Christopher Dykton. Meanwhile, Desiree’s mother, Madame Armfeldt (played lovingly by Jennifer Strand), reflects on her long line of lovers while Desiree’s daughter, Fredrika (impressively played by Camille McDermott), contemplates the mysteries and foolishness of love surrounding her.

Anne Marie Pinto sings "The Miller's Son." Photo courtesy of The Arlington Players.

The ensemble is filled with terrific performances, directed with finesse by Christopher Dykton. Annie Coffman is fantastic as the naive Anne Egerman (She is particularly strong in “Soon”) , and Janet Van Albert Replogle plays a deliciously bitchy, Countess Charlotte Malcolm. They both shine on their duet, “Every Day a Little Death.” Scott Harrison is a charming Henrik, who sings well in “Later” as well as “Soon.” Heather Friedman (Desiree Armfeldt) won me over in the duet, “You Must Meet My Wife” and sings a beautiful “Send in the Clowns.” Brent Stone (Fredrik) was handily convincing in the role. His “It Would have Been Wonderful” with Hans Dettmar as the hysterical Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm, is another of the many highpoints in the show. Anne Marie Pinto, as Petra, sings a thrilling “Miller’s Son.”

The rest of the company, which serves as a chorus to the ever-changing events, sing and dance beautifully (“Remember?” being a standout) and keep the show moving with nary a hitch. The entire cast blends superbly in the ensemble numbers, especially in the marvelous “Weekend in the Country”.

The period costumes by Grant Kevin Lane are utterly fantastic and look like they were borrowed from a Broadway production. The set by Russell Kopp, made up largely of wood pieces that are cleverly used for multiple purposes, from furniture to performance platforms, is outstanding, with wood beams shrewdly being used to connote trees. The set smoothly shifts from lovely stately homes to theaters to country gardens. The lighting by B. Keith Ryder is also very effective, especially in giving the audience the sense of the perpetual daylight that is oft sung about.

With all these amazing contributions to this terrific production, the superstars of the evening are the sizable orchestra under the superb musical direction of John-Michael d’Haviland. Fortunately for the audience, the musicians can be seen behind the action on the large stage, and they play the beloved Stephen Sondheim score so masterfully that your heart cannot help but waltz along a little with the glorious night music that you are hearing.

Madame Armfeldt (Jennifer Strand), reflects on her long line of lovers during 'Liaisons' with Fredrika (Camille McDermott). Photo courtesy of The Arlington Players.

Running Time: Approximately three hours, with one intermission.

A Little Night Music plays through June 17, 2012, at The Arlington Players at The Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle at The Mead Center for American Theater – 1101 6th Street SW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call The Arlington Players at (703) 549-1063, or purchase them online.

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