Arena Dinner Theatre closes out its 2017-18 season with Stephen Sondheim's brilliant A Little Night Music. The 1973 hit musical weaves the stories of multiple love triangles involving an actress, a count, the count's wife and a lawyer and his family, as facilitated by a Greek chorus of servants (sung by Brad Davis, Renee Gonzales, Andrew Gross, Leah Wedler, and Mineli Manoukian). Both hilarious and romantic, the show takes the audience on a wild weekend in the country where everyone plots to find love with the person of their choice.
Leslie Beauchamp stars as Desiree Armfeldt, a popular touring actress who juggles a tricky love triangle between a newly married lawyer (Todd Frymier) and a jealous (and also married) count (Billy Dawson). Beauchamp is perfect as Desiree, bringing her grace and poise as well as her comedic skills to the role. Her rendition of "Send in the Clowns" is beautifully sung and filled with the pathos of a woman who waited just a little too long to go after the thing she most wanted.
Chali Moss is an accomplished young actor who plays Desiree's precocious daughter Fredrika with honesty and naturalness. Grand dame of Fort Wayne theatre Rosy Ridenour returns to the stage after a too-long absence as the perfectly cast Madame Leonora Armfeldt, Desiree's mother, a former courtesan with a long list of former lovers - barons, dukes, and kings - all of whom contributed to her considerable wealth.
As the lawyer Fredrik Egerman, Frymier likewise shows his range: both the humor of his acceptance that his wife of nearly a year remains a virgin, and his sincere regret that he has disappointed Desiree. Rebecca Nelson is effervescent as the virginal Anne, a lover of life who is sometimes oblivious to it. Egerman's son Henrik, a seminary student, is played with sweet, awkward sincerity by Jordan Gameon.
Sophia D'Virgilio is deliciously sultry as Petra, the Egerman family's maid, who echoes Madame Armfeldt's contention that sex is a "pleasurable means to a measurable end." Meanwhile, her current lover is Madame Armfeldt's butler, played by Quentin C. Jenkins, whose facial expressions punctuate his Act I scenes.
Dawson is fantastic as Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm, the arrogant embodiment of toxic masculinity in late-19th century Sweden. His solo "In Praise of Women" is a master class in how to act a song. Malcolm's long-suffering, but bitterly scathing wife Charlotte is brilliantly played by Olivia Ross who gets laughs just with a droll stare.
The costumes and wigs, by designer Jan Klee, are particularly gorgeous.
Christopher J. Murphy directs this production, his third Sondheim musical at Arena. His attention to detail, technical ability to convey humor and drama with sometimes the most subtle of staging, and his casting choices all come together to create a perfect evening of musical theater.
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