FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Buzz Tennent, left, plays Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm and Diane Alexander plays Desiree Armfeldt in Hawaii Opera Theatre's production of "A Little Night Music" at the Blaisdell Concert Hall. The Stephen Sondheim musical is set in Sweden at the beginning of the 20th century and presents a three-household web of affairs.
A little ‘Night Music’ does audience good
Romantic, funny, spicy, witty and accessible, Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music" comes with tangled situations and an endless flow of words. Elaborate music and fast dialogue are interwoven, almost all in waltz tempo, in the operetta tradition. This dramatic cocktail reminds me of one of Jerry Thomas' recipes from 1862, in "How to Mix Drinks -- The Bon Vivant's Companion": champagne, ice, sugar, bitters and a "float" of cognac.
'A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC'|
On stage: 4 p.m. today and Aug. 10; 8 p.m. Friday
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Tickets: $20 to $75
Call: 596-7372 or visit hawaiiopera.org
Based on Ingmar Bergman's 1956 film "Smiles of a Summer Night," and originally produced on Broadway in 1973 by Harold Prince, this bubbly mix requires skilled actors and singers who must make you smile and laugh. But it is not just a comedy; it is also a discourse on etiquette and sex a la Mozart.
This Hawaii Opera Theatre Summer Season offers a pleasantly staged and choreographed production of Sondheim's musical. The singers are very well cast, the scenery and costumes are handsome; and most of all, the orchestra conducted by Timothy Shaindlin does a superb job.
The plot is set in Sweden at the beginning of the 20th century and presents a three-household web of affairs, with the youths and grown-ups of the Egerman, Armfeldt and Magnus families interacting to fulfill their romantic dreams.
Young Anne (Audrey Elizabeth Luna) is married (but has not consummated the marriage) to middle-aged lawyer Fredrick Egerman (Jake Gardner), who has a young son, Henrik (Derek Taylor), secretly in love with his stepmother.
Unmarried actress Desiree Armfelt (Diane Alexander) is the lover of Count Carl-Magnus (Leslie Tennent), a handsome but not-so-smart guy. His wife, the Countess (Jill Gardner) is jealous and bitterly comedic. Desiree's wealthy elderly mother (Rosalind Elias) invites the households to spend the weekend in her mansion, and what comes after is more intrigue.
The famous tunes come in the second act, and they're worth the wait. On Friday, Alexander delivered "Send in the Clowns" with a crystal clear voice and interpretation; right after, Mary Chesnut Hicks, in the role of Petra, the Egerman's servant, sang "The Miller's Son" with her usual vigor and skill. The cathartic finale closed the production, securing the music in our memory.
Particularly exceptional throughout the evening was Gardner, a great actor and outstanding singer, perfect in his role. Luna, with her occasional nasal interpretation of the young bride, did well with her character, too.
Elias definitely never forgot where she was, although her character did, and mastered her role. Gardner and her darkish voice had the humor and sarcasm required of the Countess. Taylor brought his troubled comedic flavor to balance the whole.
The liebeslieder -- a supporting group of singers -- flowed back and forth on stage, adding grace and wit to the musical with carefree dancing and singing. And along with the cast, the skillful orchestra made the show a pleasant summer night experience.
Valeria Wenderoth has a doctorate in musicology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she also teaches.