Wednesday, November 25, 2009
A Little Night Music - First Preview
First preview, done. I want to see it again. I'd love to tell you everything about last night's most anticipated first preview. But today, things that shouldn't be said, won't.
Things that won't change, I'll talk about.
First of all, where are the French horns? This classy, elegant, most glamorous sound is sorely missed. The horns are what make the original orchestrations so thrilling to me. And here, for this production, the orchestra is paired down to almost nothing save a string or two, a clarinet and a keyboard - are there more instruments? I've heard there are 7 pieces, but it's hard to tell - the band is in the wings. I could see the conductor's hands, score and keyboard from my seat. Note, I will take my horn with me to the next performance I attend. That'll learn 'em.
Secondly, David Farley's design, both set and costume, is bland (except for Madame Armfeldt's costumes). There is very little glamour. Hartley T A Kemp's lighting doesn't help. The first act is painfully dark.
Otherwise, I'll definitely go again for the story, the lyrics, the melody, the characters, all of the actors.
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The set and lighting worked wonderfully at the Menier, but it just doesn't make sense to transfer them into a larger theatre (the Garrick in London and now the Walter Kerr) thinking the overall effect will be the same.
I have loved or adored every single show at the Menier, but those who moved to larger spaces (starting with Sunday) lost a significant part of their appeal in the process.
In the case of Night Music, the loss of the full orchestra is particularly painful. The one redeeming feature is Trevor Nunn’s uncanny ability at finding meaning and depth in the most unexpected places.
Thank you for your insight, Laurent. I felt that Sunday at Studio 54 was a disappointment as well - mostly because of that damn orchestra, or lack thereof. It's particularly missed here. I reserved any criticism of Nunn here because I think that w/ a first preview, we aren't able to see the directing nuances yet especially since I understand that they didn't have an invited dress rehearsal.
I can't imagine the show with a small orchestra, especially with horns. I mostly can't imagine "A Weekend in the Country" with a small orchestra, which has some great horn parts in the original orchestration.
Also, is it possible that they might fix the sightline problems with the orchestra by opening night?
I was under the impression that Broadway theatres had a requirement for a minimum number of orchestra members, which at the Shubert is fourteen, I believe. Is this something that is flexible depending upon the show or production, or have I proven my ignorance by stating something without possessing all of the necessary data?
If I may change the course of this conversation, I shall also iterate that I hope you had a marvelous Thanksgiving replete in all of the necessary splendor associated with the holiday.
Finally, thank you for your review of the preview of "A Little Night Music".
Never having seen prior productions of ALNM, I thought the Nunn Broadway version was spectacular. French horns may have gilded the lily, but the music sounded wonderful to me, and I thought the set design was clever and worked perfectly. I'll respect your reluctance to say too much about a preview, but let me just mention Catherine Zeta-Jones' performance; I've heard "Send in the Clowns" sung by everyone from Sinatra to Judy Collins, but no rendition was so much in character or as convincingly sincere as CZJ's.
I can't wait to read a full review.
They cut the horns? Again? After the revival of SITPWG did the same thing?
As a fellow horn player, I am appalled that Sondheim would allow this.
And here I was looking forward to a new cast recording. Not anymore.
Monica, I'm not sure what you mean by sightline problems with the orchestra...I don't think there are any problems - the orchestra is not meant to be seen, just heard. Instead of putting them in the pit, they are in the wings. You could only see the conductor if you are sitting on the far opposite side of the house.
Bob, not having horns is not a show killer, just disappointing.
Allen, thank you for your comments - it's wonderful to hear that it is loved. Since I've seen it before and am such a fan of the original cast recording, I was just expecting something different. I will definitely be going back again despite the disappointments I am experiencing with the orchestra, costumes and sets.
The SITPWG revival album is basically unlistenable for me thanks to the tinny, reduced orchestrations. (And horrid singing. But that's my opinion, natch.)
Sad that the music in recent Sondheim Broadway revivals is treated as an afterthought.
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