Eighteen year old Anne Egerman is in an unconsummated marriage with her middle-aged husband, Fredrik Egerman who is having a fling with the actress, Desiree Armfeldt, who has her own boy toy in the form of Count Carl Magnus-Malcom who is cheerfully, to him, married to Countess Charlotte Malcom who happens to be a childhood friend of Anne who now has her stepson, Henrik, pining after her. You can sift through this Baxter’s Box of a menage by watching A Little Night Music at Bellevue Little Theatre.
Hugh Wheeler’s script boxes a cast and director into one dilly of a corner. Wheeler knows where he wants the script to go, for the most part, but he doesn’t know what he wants it to be. Halfway through the first act, I realized I was watching a sex farce, but the show is presented drily so the comedy is hidden. The dialogue is written so formally that it prevents a cast from camping it up because the words don’t have the elasticity needed to fire off jokes. As such, a cast and director have little choice but to follow the route of formality thrust upon them. That being said, this director and cast got all they could and a maybe a little bit more out of the story.
Todd Uhrmacher does a lot of nice little things to keep this show running. He has staged it like a ballroom dance where the performers (particularly a Greek chorus) glide on and off the stage with the smoothness of ballroom dancers to transition between scenes. He’s got a good grip on the emotional beats and knows where to emphasize them for maximum impact with the “Send In the Clowns” sequence being a firm yank on the heartstrings.
Sherry Josand Fletcher plays one of the show’s few likable characters in the form of Madame Armfeldt whose droll observations and life lessons added levity to the show. Jack Zerbe adds the right dose of weariness to Fredrik Egerman who married a much younger woman in a desperate attempt to cling to his own youth, but connects with the more age appropriate Desiree Armfeldt. Zerbe’s Egerman also has a sense of honor as he would rather be unhappy with his young wife than hurt her.
Heather Wilhelm gets the show’s most complex character in the form of Desiree Armfeldt. She’s not quite as unlikable as some of the other characters as she does truly love her daughter and would rather be with her. On the other hand, she does manage her other relationships to suit herself. She’s happily involved with a married man and just as easily sleeps with an old beau to rescue him from his sexless marriage. Still, she is aware of her own foibles and makes an epic confession of them with a stirring rendition of “Send In the Clowns”.
The best roles in the show are those of Count Carl Magnus-Malcom and Countess Charlotte Malcom. These two characters come closest to matching the farce of the piece and have a lot of meat for the performers to sink their teeth into.
Jodi Vaccaro is splendid in the role of Countess Charlotte Malcom. Vaccaro is sympathetic as the woman trapped in a seemingly loveless marriage and is the only decent person in this love octagon as she isn’t screwing around with anybody. Her sardonic delivery is right on the mark for the bitter countess and I found myself rooting for her when she started giving her ogre of a husband a dose of his own medicine with her pretending to throw herself at Fredrik Egerman.
Scott Van Den Top plays said ogre with his portrayal of Count Carl Magnus-Malcom. This man is at the center of his own universe and isn’t shy about living that openly. If there’s one positive thing I can say about him is that he’s honest. The Count doesn’t hide his affairs from his wife, but arrogantly believes she is OK with his flings and appreciates the scant hours he gives to her. Van Den Top really plays up the Count’s obliviousness as he unabashedly drags his wife along on a hare-brained plot to prevent his mistress from cheating on him.
Dr. D. Laureen Pickle and her orchestra elegantly handle the classical score. Kerri Jo Richardson-Watts keeps the choreography simple with a few waltzes. Ibsen Costume Gallery’s costumes suit the turn of the century setting of the show. Joey Lorincz has designed an incredibly simple set of streamers reaching from floor to ceiling which suit the ballroom staging and can double as trees. He also keeps a dark blue lighting present to suit a little night music.
Outside of the script not allowing itself to be the farce it wants to be, it also has a few unnecessary secondary story arcs that pull away from the primary action. The show also suffers a bit from some mixed acting in some of the ensemble players. But if you enjoy classical music and a traditional sitting room play, then this show might be up your alley.
A Little Night Music runs at Bellevue Little Theatre through Mar 26. Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets cost $25 can be reserved at www.theblt.org or calling 402-413-8945. Bellevue Little Theatre is located at 203 W Mission Ave in Bellevue, NE.