June 9, 2015 (UPDATED) - Ah, liaisons! Old love is rekindled, young love is awakened, and foolish romantic escapades intertwine in Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's ravishing A Little Night Music, opening Friday, July 10 (8pm) at Palm Beach Dramaworks. This concert presentation, which runs through July 19 at the Don & Ann Brown Theatre, is directed by Lynnette Barkley, with musical direction by Kevin David Thomas. Leading the cast are William Michals, who previously captivated audiences in PBD's concert productions of Man of La Mancha and The Most Happy Fella; Sondheim veteran Joy Franz, who created the role of the Stepmother in the original production of Into the Woods; and Kim Cozort, last seen at PBD in Dividing the Estate.
A Little Night Music is the first of two musicals to be presented in concert by PBD this summer. 110 in the Shade, with music by Harvey Schmidt, lyrics by Tom Jones, and a book by N. Richard Nash based on his play The Rainmaker, follows from August 14-23.
A Little Night Music, suggested by the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night, is a bittersweet confection about the follies of love. The original production, produced and directed by Harold Prince, opened on Broadway on February 25, 1973, played 601 performances, and was the recipient of six Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Sondheim won for Best Original Score, and Wheeler for Best Book.
The musical came on the heels of Company and Follies, and Sondheim and Prince surprised Broadway by turning their attentions from the contemporary, urban, neurotic world they had explored so ambitiously in those shows to create a sophisticated, edgy fairy-tale operetta set in Sweden at the turn of the twentieth century. This bittersweet confection features some of Sondheim's most gorgeous melodies and pungent lyrics, and includes his best-known song, "Send in the Clowns." Virtually the entire score is written in multiples of three-quarter time - most fitting for a show about romantic triangles - recalling not the cheery tunes of waltz king Johann Strauss, but the darker melodies of Maurice Ravel.
The original production starred Glynis Johns as Desirée Armfeldt, an actress who is reunited with her former lover, Fredrik Egerman, after many years apart; Len Cariou as Egerman, a widower now wed to a much younger wife who is unwilling to consummate the marriage; and Hermoine Gingold as Madame Armfeldt, a wealthy ex-courtesan and mother of Desirée. Other notable Desirées include Jean Simmons (original London production), Sally Ann Howes (New York City Opera), Elizabeth Taylor (1978 film), and Catherine Zeta-Jones followed by Bernadette Peters (2009 Broadway revival).
In addition to Cozort (Desirée), Michals (Egerman), and Franz (Mme. Armfeldt), PBD's production features
Aloysius Gigl as Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm, Desirée's lover; Ruthie Stephens as Charlotte, Carl-Magnus' put-upon wife; Lillie Ricciardi as Anne, Fredrik's young wife; Clay Cartland as Henrik, Fredrik's son; and Cristina Flores as Petra, the Egerman maid. Rounding out the cast are Georgia Guy, Brittany Baratz, Angela Miller, Alex Jorth, and Matthew Korinko, the quintet of lieder singers who introduce the show's opening waltz and function throughout like a Greek chorus. Scenic design is by Dustin Hamilton, costume design is by Linda Shorrock, lighting design is by Tom Shorrock, and sound design is by Richard Szczublewski.
All musicals in concert are performed with limited instrumental accompaniment and minimal staging and design. These full-length presentations include both the score and the book.