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A Little Night Music ~ Signature Theatre

Jordan Wright
August 29, 2017 

Holly Twyford (Desiree Armfeldt) and Bobby Smith (Fredrik Egerman) in A Little Night Music at Signature Theatre. Photo by Christopher Mueller

Holly Twyford (Desiree Armfeldt) and Bobby Smith (Fredrik Egerman) . Photo by Christopher Mueller

The most difficult reviews to write are the ones in which there is nothing to critique – where the music washes over you like a waterfall, the Noel Cowardesque repartee is both witty and snarky, the voices luscious and the costumes, sheer Victorian elegance.  How do you argue perfection?  That’s the quandary I find myself in with Director Eric Schaeffer’s production of A Little Night Music.  Schaeffer has kicked off the new season with an eye-popping, ear-swooning production that will knock your socks off.  Not only is the cast superlative but the 13-piece orchestra led by Jon Kalbfleisch soars.

Bobby Smith (Fredrik Egerman) and Will Gartshore (Carl-Magnus Malcolm) . Photo by Christopher Mueller

Four-time Helen Hayes award-winning actress Holly Twyford stars as the glamorous femme fatale Desiree Armfeldt, a Swedish actress who is both feisty and vulnerable and comes armed with a rapier wit.  Twyford, who has never done a musical before, proves she can sell a song purely through tenderness and raw emotion.  Neither sharp, nor flat, nor off-key, her delivery of the iconic number “Send in the Clowns” is poignant, wry and edge-of-your-seat at the same time.  The entire show is, but for different reasons.

Maria Rizzo, Kevin McAllister, Tracy Lynn Olivera, Nicki Elledge, Sam Ludwig, Holly Twyford, Will Gartshore, and Florence Lacey. Photo by Paul Tate DePoo III

Pulling from some of the finest singers in our area the range of voices from baritone to tenor and alto to soprano is breathtaking – their harmonies flawless.  It’s every singer’s dream to perform in this show, and Schaeffer has cast the best of the best.  There’s Bobby Smith as Fredrik Egerman, a well-heeled attorney in the throes of a mid-life crisis and married to the virginal Anne, played by the adorable Nicki Elledge, and Sam Ludwig, just coming off of Jesus Christ Superstar, who garnered a well-earned Helen Hayes nomination for last year’s lollapalooza Titanic, here playing the angst-ridden cellist Henrik Egerman.

Florence Lacey, who lays claim to a string of Broadway hits, plays the curmudgeonly sentimentalist, Madame Leonora Armfeldt.  Lacey was also in Signature’s Titanic – as well as another alum from the show, Tracy Lynn Olivera, here as the beleaguered, but shrewd, Countess Charlotte Malcolm.

Maria Rizzo (Petra). Photo by Christopher Mueller.

The sheer schadenfreude deliciousness between the characters creates the necessary tension behind some of the comic encounters, such as Petra’s tempestuous seduction of Henrik in “Soon”.  (Petra played by the voluptuous Maria Rizzo) and Fredrik’s suggestion to his old flame Desiree, “You must meet my wife.” To which she sarcastically replies, “Let me get my hat and my knife!”

Holly Twyford (Desiree Armfeldt) . Photo by Christopher Mueller.

Scenic Designer Paul Tate dePoo III gives us a stately banquet table that lowers from the rafters and a massive bed that features prominently as seducers and the seduced frolic with abandon in merry games of chase all choreographed by Karma Camp.  Lighting by the brilliant Colin K. Bills and the dreamy costumes by legendary designer Robert Perdziola.

Highly recommended.  Five stars, if I gave out stars, which I don’t.  Just go.

Through October 8th at Signature Theatre (Shirlington Village), 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206.  For tickets and information call 703 820-9771 or visit www.sigtheatre.org.

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