REVIEW: A Little Night Music

Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s classic musical A Little Night Music is brought to life in a new production by the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. A Little Night Music presents the story of long lost lovers Desiree Armfelt and Fredrik Egerman, who, after 14 years, 2 children, and 1 new marriage find themselves together again. Of course life, and love, is never simple and this play seeks to discover what happens when the past and present collide during a summer weekend in the country.
Although slow to start, A Little Night Music found its stride during the very end of the first act and presented an interesting reflection on the nature of love and what can happen when love is lost but not forgotten. The strength of the production was the portrayal of the two leads, Desiree (Eleanor Todd) and Fredrik (Conor McGiffin), and the humourous supporting couple Count Carl-Magnus (Elias Wygodny)  and his wife Charlotte (Jordana Grolnick). Todd and McGiffin had great on-stage chemistry and the ease with which they bantered and laughed with each other made all of their scenes together extremely enjoyable. Although they represented a different kind of love, the characters of Carl-Magnus and Charlotte were similarly fun to watch. Wygodny’s portrayal of jealous lover and mostly proper soldier Carl-Magnus was intriguing and humorous, and Grolnick’s deadpanned depressive one-liners provided a hilarity that often stole the scene. Together Wygodny and Grolnick presented a wonderfully amusing couple who shone in every scene they were a part of.
While the music was mostly enjoyable and the bits of witty dialogue were definitely appreciated, the overall production was not completely compelling and oftentimes I found myself wishing we were at the closing number. The plot itself was rather predictable and there were moments full of exposition and almost no action, which made it hard to be fully invested in what was happening onstage. Although not all of the cast’s individual performances were as strong as the leads, they did perform well as an ensemble, which made up for some of the awkward and duller moments.
Overall A Little Night Music was an interesting production. Although somewhat predictable, it did have humourous moments and some well sung songs, including the most recognizable “Send in the Clowns.” I’m glad to have seen it once, and am looking forward to see what the School of Music, Theatre, & Dance do next.

The School of Music, Theatre & Dance, brings Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s classic musical A Little Night Music to life in a new production. A Little Night Music presents the story of long lost lovers Desiree Armfelt and Fredrik Egerman, who, after 14 years, 2 children, and 1 new marriage find themselves together again. Of course life, and love, is never simple and this play seeks to discover what happens when the past and present collide during a summer weekend in the country.

Although slow to start, A Little Night Music found its stride during the very end of the first act and presented an interesting reflection on the nature of love and what can happen when love is lost but not forgotten. The strength of the production was the portrayal of the two leads, Desiree (Eleanor Todd) and Fredrik (Conor McGiffin), and the humorous supporting couple Count Carl-Magnus (Elias Wygodny) and his wife Charlotte (Jordana Grolnick). Todd and McGiffin had great on-stage chemistry and the ease with which they bantered and laughed with each other made all of their scenes together extremely enjoyable. Although they represented a different kind of love, the characters of Carl-Magnus and Charlotte were similarly fun to watch. Wygodny’s portrayal of jealous lover and mostly proper soldier Carl-Magnus was intriguing and humorous, and Grolnick’s deadpanned depressive one-liners provided a hilarity that often stole the scene. Together Wygodny and Grolnick presented a wonderfully amusing couple who shone in every scene they were a part of.

While the music was mostly enjoyable and the bits of witty dialogue were definitely appreciated, the overall production was not completely compelling and oftentimes I found myself wishing we were at the closing number. The plot itself was rather predictable and there were moments full of exposition and almost no action, which made it hard to be fully invested in what was happening onstage. Although not all of the cast’s individual performances were as strong as the leads, they did perform well as an ensemble, which made up for some of the awkward and duller moments.

Overall A Little Night Music was an interesting production. Although somewhat predictable, it did have humorous moments and some well sung songs, including the most recognizable “Send in the Clowns.” I’m glad to have seen it once, and am looking forward to see what the School of Music, Theatre, & Dance does next.

REVIEW: UMGASS presents Pirates of Penzance or, The Slave of Duty

Friday night, I had the privilege of seeing UMGASS’s presentation of Pirates of Penzance, or The Slave of Duty. It was such a great show – whimsical, cheery, and largely optimistic, I am officially an avid fan of UMGASS and the work that they do.

The play itself was actually pretty similar to what I was expecting for my first Gilbert and Sullivan show. The humor worked on so many levels. There was, of course, the absurdity of pirates in this bizarre setting in Cornwall, the main character Frederic having an identity crisis and wondering what a “true beautiful woman is” when all he has known is his charming yet elderly guardian Ruth, and of course who could forget the Major-General, an attested genius who asserts the depth of his knowledge while insulting his own at the same time. The whole concept is absolutely crazy.

The other operating level of humor was of course that of intellectually-based, political satire. Beginning with a rendition of “God Save the Queen,” audience participation insisted, we are immediately placed in a time period where everyone respects, yet mocks the queen to which they serve. Not to mention the lyrics of the songs are all at once brilliant and thought-provoking. It is almost too much to see it once and understand all that is going on in the show.

Job well done to the fine folks at UMGASS – can’t wait for what’s next!

REVIEW: Legally Blonde!

As embarrassing as this is to admit, Thursday night was actually my third time seeing Legally Blonde the musical. I love the show, as goes without saying, but this production was especially special. First off, my friend was playing the character Vivian and she was phenomenal. Second, the girl playing Elle Woods, the lead, was perhaps the best Elle I’ve ever seen. She not only looked the part, but absolutely rocked the vocals.

The songs were wonderfully executed and well backed by the Greek Chorus when Elle needed a little bit of cheering up while away at Harvard. Even the side characters fleshed their parts out with finesse and originality, which is saying something considering I could practically recite the show in my sleep.

The set design was awesome too, especially for a community theater production. They maintained the structure of Delta Nu, Elle’s sorority house at UCLA, but added the Harvard flag once she was transported to law school. It was clever and low-budget, so both functional and well-serving. I thought it worked very well.

The two dogs in the show, as are always a highlight for the audience, were well-behaved and adorable. Everyone oo-ed and awe-ed when they came on stage, and giggled when they looked about ready to make their exit a beat too early. It was precious.

So all and all, a fantastic production. The vocal talent was superb and the choreography was spot on. I give it a hardy two-thumbs up and hope everyone who was curious, got to see it. It was well worth your evening.

PREVIEW: Legally Blonde!

This weekend only, come see Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s production of Legally Blonde the Musical! November 15-18 and tickets are only $13 for students!

image from Wikipedia
image from Wikipedia

Based on the movie which was based on a book, Legally Blonde tells the story of Elle Woods and her struggle to find herself and her career within the competitive and rigorous academic environment of Harvard Law School. Spunky and fun, this musical will lift your spirits with such classic hits as “Bend and Snap” and “Ireland.” It’s a show for everyone, so bring your girlfriends, boyfriends, significant others, and family to enjoy this fantastic performance.

Hope to see you there!

And click here to go to the facebook page!

REVIEW: Sunday in the Park with George

Friday night, I had the privilege of seeing “Sunday in the Park with George” as performed by the Musical Theatre Department here at the School of Music, Theatre, & Dance. The premise of the show is the story of Georges Seurat, the creator of the famed painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”. He struggles with success and criticism of his work in his time period, never having sold a painting during his lifetime. He has difficulties balancing work and his relationships with others and ends up losing his mistress and model, Dot, to another. George is an interesting character in a lot of ways. His concentration to his art and failure at succeeding at much else for one thing is quite perplexing and the attention to detail in his work is astonishing. The show mentioned also that it took him two years to finish the painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”. I thought the musical did a lot to represent accurately Seurat’s work habits and advanced concentration to his work.

The show was definitely a success, the actors and actresses, singing, and dancing was entirely up to par, as anticipated. Some standouts from the show include the actress performing the role of Dot. Her voice was absolutely phenomenal and she totally reminded me of Bernadette Peters, who played the role while it was on Broadway. The lead, George, was so good at mimicking a crazed artist, affixed in both his paintings and his work. He flitted around the stage, particularly in the scene “The State of the Artist,” where he hovered between appearing interested in potential investors and posing for photographs. It was a whirlwind of a scene and it played to his strong points.

The middle of the show, in all honesty, was sort of a snore. The three hour-long performance droned on and I felt bored with the nitty-gritty of the plot while the songs seemed to me rather dull. The first act was definitely better than the second, but it still wasn’t entrancing. I truly believe, however, that this was due entirely to the writers of the show and not the men and women of the Musical Theatre department. I think the show isn’t Sondheim’s best, but it is such a cool concept, basing the entire plot and musical numbers on a single painting and its artist – it’s worth portraying. I think with a few more crowd-pleasing numbers and less dialogue-heavy scenes, it would have worked better.

All was restored for me, including the immensely boring middle parts, when that final song “Sunday” was performed at the ends of both acts. It’s such a beautiful song and the melodies seem to flow directly from the heart. It has the usual Sondheim ring to it, finishing with a bang and a grand flourish of the arm. I loved it. And when the musical ended and the backdrop went white, Dot leaves the stage while George’s final word coincides with the emotions of the audience: Harmony.

I don’t believe I would recommend the show to a friend if it were inconvenient for them to see it; although, if it was right in your backyard with an amazing cast, I wouldn’t say no to a ticket. Glad I saw it, but glad it’s over. Can’t wait for what show they put on next.

PREVIEW: Sunday in the Park with George

This weekend come see the stunning U-M Musical Theatre department perform the beloved Sondheim production “Sunday in the Park with George”! Inspired by the painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat, this fictionalized story tells of this painter’s life and his interactions with his lover and model, Dot. The book is by James Lapine, who also worked on such popularized shows as “Into the Woods,” “Falsettos,” and “Passion.” He frequently collaborates with Stephen Sondheim and this show is considered one of their best (info from wikipedia.org)

“A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat
“A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat

The show is running October 11th-21st at the Mendelssohn Theatre – buy your tickets soon!!