The Valdosta Daily Times
Some shows end with all-cast-on-deck production numbers, legs kicking, costumes pinwheeling, voices booming; shows that almost demand audiences leap from their seats in a standing ovation. Or like “The Sound of Music,” closing with a memorable scene of a sweet family escaping the Nazis, following an evening of performances of well-known and beloved songs, and the audience must rise, wants to stand, and applaud.
For many area audiences, Peach State Summer Theatre’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music” may not be one of those shows. It does end with a big company finale, but it does not demand the audience stand. With exception of “Send in the Clowns,” most audiences will recognize no other songs from this show.
As the musical ended opening night, a few audience members almost reluctantly rose from their seats in Sawyer Theatre. Though the applause was rigorous, the standing ovation was not to be. Some audiences quite simply won’t know what to make of “A Little Night Music” — a story where numerous couples are poorly matched with their mates until a series of fateful swaps brings all loves into line. Some South Georgia audiences simply won’t know whether they should openly heap praise upon such behavior, even while the talents on stage, from the performances, to the lighting, costumes, scenery, orchestra, sound, are superb.
Under the sublime direction of Randy Wheeler, “A Little Night Music” is one of those shows with moments that stay with you. Performances and scenes that return to you the next day and beyond, that last like the summer sun lingering in the sky of the play’s second-act setting, that still glows in the sky during intermission.
It does not demand an ovation, but “A Little Night Music” does accomplish the other feat, possibly the more difficult and better one. It is a show that finds a place in your psyche and heart.
I write this review more than 48 hours after seeing the play close, more than two days since sitting, rooted to my theatre seat, applauding but not standing until the house lights brightened and it was time to go home. Two days of having since watched three movies, read a book, perused countless social media posts and emails, and living moments of life, but still moments from “A Little Night Music” stay.
The spoken story-song philosophy-memories of Joanne Griner’s Madame Armfeldt. The blend of voices and songs as Michael Elliott, Rachel Day and Sean Patrick respectively as Fredrik, Anne and Henrik perform “Now,” “Later,” “Soon.” Sean Patrick’s cello. Rachel Day’s comic running across the stage as she searches for Henrik. Genny Wynn’s lighting design for the grand dinner scene. The surprising, heartbreaking, reassuring power of Sandia Ahlers’ Petra singing “The Miller’s Son.” Jim Sorenson’s blustering Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm and his delightfully sharp-tongued but put-upon wife Countess Charlotte played by Amy Fritsche. Barbara Dare Thomas as Desiree Armfeldt making sense of one of the oddest 1970s hits from a decade of odd songs with her tender performance of “Send in the Clowns.” Thomas and Elliott’s easy chemistry, the passion, humor and comfort of two old lovers reunited, as Desiree and Fredrik discover one another again ...
Two days later, writing this review, these and other moments from PSST!’s “A Little Night Music” shine like the penny sun of the year’s longest day. You can ask nothing more from a show. Seeing it is recommended, so’s an ovation, even if you may not feel it in the moment, but some of you will be glad you stood when still thinking of the show two days later and counting ...
This review is based on the Friday, June 21 performance.
THE CAST: Sean Patrick, Adam Woodruff, Caroline Hatchett, Madeline Glenn Thomas, Ethan Ray Parker, Rebecca Morris, Jennifer Maurer, Joanne Griner, Dennis May, Rachel Day, Michael Elliott, Sandia Ahlers, Barbara Dare Thomas*, Chéla North, Michael McClain, Jim Sorensen*, Amy Fritsche, Jessica Mathis, Joshua Barcol, Larren Woodward, Ashley Anderson.
* This actor appears through the courtesy of Actors’ Equity, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
DIRECTION, PRODUCTION: Dr. Randy Wheeler, director; Jacque Wheeler, choreographer; Matthew C. Mainella, musical director; Christa Bynum, stage manager; Tamara Hardesty, vocal director; Ruth A. Brandvik, scenic designer; Genny Wynn, lighting designer; Esther Iverson, costume designer; Michael Driggers, technical director.
ORCHESTRA: Vicorie Brown, keys I; Sarah Cain, reeds; Donna Farwell, keys II; Teal Ewer, trumpet, guitar; Zach Jones, trombone; David Morris, percussion; Joshua Weathers, bass.
TECHNICAL STAFF, BOX OFFICE Dorothy Barnes Driggers, draper, stitcher; Jennifer Hebda, scenic artist; Genna A. Kasun, props artisan; Jared Kay, carpenter; Katelynn Kenworthy, intern; Justin L. Kirkpatrick, master carpenter; Cameron Lucas, scene shop assistant; Ryan Ponsell, sound engineer; Kathy Raess-Young, costume shop supervisor; Ree Seminole, assistant technical director; Caitlyn Tuten and Dan Wilt, costume shop assistants; Blake Fountain and Caitlin D. Miller, box office treasurers; Charlotte Grady, house, company manager.
Peach State Summer Theatre’s “A Little Night Music” continues 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 26, and Friday, June 28, and other dates through mid-July, Sawyer Theatre, Valdosta State University Fine Arts Building, corner of Oak and Brookwood. Times, dates, more information: Visit www.valdosta.edu/psst Box office: Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., call (229) 259-7770. The Valdosta Daily Times is proud to be PSST!’s corporate sponsor.