Before the last notes of music had left the air, the relatively small audience at Wednesday night's premiere of A Little Night Music spilled forth with thunderous applause and screams of encouragement that filled the Center for the Arts' Black Box Theatre to the bursting point.
UB's department of theater and dance has once again outdone itself, performing a rendition of A Little Night Music that would make Stephen Sondheim proud.
First premiering on Broadway in 1973, A Little Night Music is a story of love and frustration in turn-of-the-century Sweden. Fredrik Egerman (Michael Barattini), a middle-aged lawyer, has recently married an 18-year-old girl named Anne; however, Anne's refusal to consummate the marriage for a variety of reasons has left Fredrik in search of the physical embrace of a woman.
After 11 months of desperately pleading for the attention of his wife, Fredrik decides to try to re-kindle his romance with Desiree (Kara Tripoli), an actress of moderate success and fame. However, trouble soon ensues when Desiree's lover, a certain Count Malcolm (Zach Rich), who has a bad relationship of his own, becomes suspicious of the two and sets out to ruin Fredrik's marriage.
Comedic relief comes, in large part, courtesy of the female half of the cast. Desiree, Petra (Maria Pedro), and the Countess (Tracey Mellon) are each sources of humor in their own way.
The Countess' bitter and jaded sense of humor contrasts that of the playfully promiscuous Petra, with Desiree falling somewhere in the middle. The combination of these three leading ladies leaves the audience in stitches.
Anne's refusal to consummate her marriage with Fredrik leads to one of the most entertaining numbers in the show, entitled "Now." During this song, Fredrik contemplates the various ways in which he might have sex with his wife. After comically considering rape, seduction and romance, he finally decides that his only real option is to take a nap.
Other standout musical numbers include Petra's promiscuous romp entitled "The Miller's Son," the opening number of the second act, entitled "The Sun Won't Set," and the most well-known song of the show, "Send in the Clowns."
In terms of vocal talent, this show is packed full of it. Both Barattini and Tripoli demonstrate excellent range and timbre, while each performer showed immense talent in his or her own right.
"I was just amazed at how big these kids' voices are," said Robert Cooke of Williamsville. "The stage is so small and their talent is just so huge; it was almost overwhelming."
One of the most impressive aspects of the performance was the relative ease with which the performers dealt with the sudden, jerking tempo changes that are characteristic of the show. A Little Night Music is known as one of the more difficult musicals to perform due to the complexity in meter and key, yet the performers handled it wonderfully.
The lighting for the show was also fantastically well put together by Max Levitt. The blending of reds, blues, greens, and yellows brought a certain sense of softness and intimacy to the stage, drawing the audience into the action.
The only real downside to the performance was the size of the theater. The Black Box Theatre is relatively small, leaving the audience pressed right up into the action on stage and the dance numbers cramped and confined. The performance would have benefited greatly by a larger stage on which the performance could have opened up a little.
A Little Night Music is a performance that the department of theater and dance can be proud to present. Everything from music and vocal talent to lighting and set design was incredibly well executed. A Little Night Music is playing at the Center for the Arts' Black Box Theatre until Saturday.