by Lorie Lewis Ham
Check out our video interviews with Joel Abels, Terry Lewis & Patricia Hoffman at the end of this review!
This weekend A Little Night Music opened in Fresno at the Cal Arts Severance Theatre presented by StageWorks Fresno. As usual, StageWorks Fresno never disappoints. It was a wonderful show filled with incredible talent.
According to director Joel Abels, A Little Night Music is one of Sondheim’s lesser known musicals. Stephen Sondheim is probably better known for shows such as Sweeney Todd, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Into the Woods and he wrote the lyrics for West Side Story. Set in 1905 Vienna, A Little Night Music Won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1973.Knowing nothing about the show, it was fun to discover it as if it were brand new. The basic story is about a middle aged man named Fredrik Egerman (played by Terry Lewis) who has married a very young girl named Anne (played by Taylor Abels), but finds he is still in love with his old love, an actress named Desiree Armfeldt (played by Amelia Ryan), when he attends a show of hers not having seen her in years. It’s a bit of a flip from the older man married to an older woman and falling for a younger one. There are many other complications–Desiree’s lover Count Carl Magnus Malcolm (played by Chris Mangels), the Count’s wife Countess Charlotte Malcolm (played by Ashley Taylor), and Fredrik’s very confused young son who is studying for the ministry, Henrik (played by Cody Bianchi).
The story itself is filled with love, drama, comedy and beautiful music. The acting was wonderful–how could it not be with this cast! The last time I saw Chris Mangels act was in his one-man show of A Christmas Carol–I had no idea that he had such a beautiful voice, or that he could be so funny. His over the top moments as the jealous and often clueless Count were hilarious and some of my favorites of the show. Seeing Terry in this role made me even sadder I missed him as the Phantom at COS, as I can just imagine his beautiful voice singing those songs, and I swear every time I see him he looks completely different–a tribute to his make up and his acting–he truly becomes his role. Taylor and Ashley’s voices were lovely as always, and Cody’s voice never fails to blow me away–I can’t wait to see what is in the future for this young man. Patricia Hoffman was witty and totally believable as the 80 some year old mother of Desiree, Madame Armfeldt, despite being nowhere near that age herself.I could go on and on, but you get the picture. This musical was top quality, and while I wasn’t familiar with most of the songs, everyone knows “Send In The Clowns,” and Amelia and Terry almost had me crying over that one. Joel is a wonderful director and brings gold to everything he touches. This is a definite must see!