So. What makes the Next Door Theatre’s A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC (playing through May 22nd) smile so brightly? Technically you can only “pull out all the stops” on an organ and there isn’t one in Dan Rodriguez’ minimal orchestra – but what he can do for the score with just four instruments is nothing short of miraculous, made even more so by Martha Moor’s glorious, ethereal harp.
More smiles from Richard Itczak’s (there is no other word) spectacular costuming, which director Brian Milauskas cleverly multiplies in Desiree’s litany of roles she’s played in the provinces: each fleeting mention of a part is accompanied by a lightening fast costume change while she and the chorus (as dressers) are singing. They zip them on and off in a trice. It’s hilarious. Thank the Lord for Velcro. That magnificent chorus! Milauskas brilliantly keeps them on stage to watch the constant folly unfold. A lovely touch.
Milauskas’ set for the weekend in the country is shaded with birch trees whose striations are musical staves! The bark seems to glisten in the disconcerting “land of the midnight sun” under Michael Wonson’s evocative lighting. Milauskas even supplies a reflecting pool, not that many of the lovers do much reflecting.
Sondheim and Wheeler based their waltz-time musical on Bergman’s beguiling film, SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT, where lovers pass like ships in the night, just missing the chance to connect until, at last, the night smiles on them. Next Door is extremely fortunate to have a cast which includes Sarah DeLima as the wry, sage grandmother with lessons to impart from her many “Liaisons,” Amelia Broome as the captivating (her name says it all) Desiree (She “Sends in those Clowns” in spades), and Todd Yard (fresh from his triumph in THE WILD PARTY) as the foolish husband trying to recapture his youth (“Now”)… and many more enchanting performances.
Shonna Cirone makes the jealous countess more wounded and vulnerable than she’s generally portrayed and it works beautifully with her suffering “Every Day a Little Death.” She’s married to Count Malcolm, that infuriating dragoon who expects all his women to be faithful to him! He’s pompous. He’s impossible and at Next Door, he’s the charismatic Michael Merullo. His commanding performance (and gorgeous voice) is one of the show’s great pleasures.
There’s Jessica Kundla as the charming, oh so young new wife who has no idea what love is… and Victoria Newhuis as the sly, tease of a maid. I could go on and on. Hi Ho for the glamorous life!