Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Little Night Music

photo: Joan Marcus

Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones in a transfer of an acclaimed London production of one of the greatest musicals ever written: it seemed like this first-ever Broadway revival of Sondheim's A Little Night Music couldn't miss. But miss it does, and widely. It would be easy to blame the scaled-down production values and the huge reduction of the orchestra to a few players, but the production sinks like a stone less because it's been given the (of course not musically ideal) chamber treatment and more because said chamber treatment isn't the result of any evident artistic vision. In other words, the only reason for the paltry orchestra and the one-wall set is that the show played a teeny tiny theatre in London. On a big Broadway stage and without a justifying vision, the miniaturization looks and sounds on-the-cheap. As you watch the cast twirl about the stage during the opening waltz, the music performed with so little power that it competes with the sound of scuffing shoes (and loses), you're confronted with the production's depressing carelessness which makes itself especially known in the lack of cohesion of the performances. Everyone seems to be in a different show: Hunter Ryan Herdika, as Henrik, plays as if to the rafters while Aaron Lazar as Carl-Magnus works toward naturalism. Was the cast given bum direction (by Trevor Nunn) or no direction at all? Lansbury is enjoyable as expected and Zeta-Jones, entirely stageworthy and magnetic, does alright by "Send In The Clowns" and by the role in general despite it being wholly unbelievable that her vital Desiree would long for Alexander Hanson's far too smug Frederick.

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