It’s hard to imagine that Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma could have topped their summer season opener of Les Miz, with a seasonal punctuation production as elegant, but they did with Stephen Sondheim’s, A Little Night Music.
Sondheim’s intricate and neurotic lyrics require perfect diction transmitted clearly through a theatre sound designer, this time expertly delivered by, Toby Algya. Each nuance and intention of the performers were received with clarity enabling the audience to pick up on the character motivated humor. Proof was evident when the audience responded to subtle humor and character duplicity.
Night Music’s plot is one of merry-go-round romances, which was symbolized by the turntable stage, again expertly used to enhance the shows pacing, adding visual variety to what can be a static staging of character soliloquies. The songs are comments on character inner feelings and plot development, keeping in mind the history each character has lived. This is nowhere more evident than in the Greek like chorus of the Quintet whose texture adds a subtext to the plot, in exquisite harmonies. Sondheim created a theatrical elegant effect where he could employ classically trained singers to convey an aristocratic air.
As the Grand Dame Madame Armfeldt might musically say, “where was I? where was I? ah yes…” Oklahoma’s own theatrical veteran Charlotte Franklin gives the performance of her career, as the Matriarch Madam Armfeldt with such genuine and restrained authority, that she commands your attention, as you can hardly wait to hear of her past liaisons. It would be so easy to over step the bounds of reality in such a character but Franklin is perfection in the role made famous by many theatrical icons.
Also spot on is Oklahoma’s own Lexi Windsor, as Petra, the ambitious young maid. She expresses all the vitality and optimism of youth in her “The Millers Son,” which ends with a bit of reality resignation. A perineal Lyric favorite, Windsor brings all of her talents to this ensemble-like role with warmth, and complexity not often seen in a supporting role.
Space does not allow me to sing kudos to the entire cast for their contributions to the consummate production Lyric presents. The casting by Michael Baron, is a dream of well accomplished musical theatre performers we are privileged to enjoy. Not to be overlooked is the elegant costumes by Jeffrey Meek which dance across the stage in the Night Music Waltz and support the visual atmosphere as well as character delineation throughout the evening. The lighting, by Helena Kuukka and set by Adam Koch, are stand outs in this production – never intrusive yet enhancing the summer night, and creating intimate acting spaces on a large stage.
Perhaps the real star of the show is the hauntingly beautiful Sondheim score accompanied by his intricate lyrics, so empathetically directed by David Andrews Rogers. Theatre aficionados will know that all the music is in three quarter time or variations thereof. And what is more romantic than the waltz tempo?
It is hard to imagine that this season of Lyric Summer Musicals will be topped next year, but Lyric continues to surprise us year after year. Season tickets for next year are on sale now, as are additional seats for this extraordinary production running through August 9th. Do yourself a theatrical favor and call: (405) 524-9312 or visit www.lyrictheatreokc.com
(Note: Terry Zinn is a past Lyric performer with degrees in theatre from Oklahoma City University and the University of Cincinnati.)