A Little Night Music than I did after the first first preview I attended on November 24, 2009. It's a practically a night and day difference.
The two principals - Angela Lansbury as Madame Armfeldt and Catherine Zeta-Jones as her daughter Desiré Armfeldt - played their final performance on June 20, 2010. The show went on hiatus for a few weeks to give the new actresses - Elaine Stritch as Madame and Bernadette Peters as Desiré - a chance to learn the roles.
Last night was every bit as ebullient as that final performance, however the new stars couldn't be more different than their predecessors.
First of all, Bernadette Peters' performance is magnificent. She may be the definitive Desiré and is certainly delivering a definitive "Send in the Clowns." Every moment of her thrilling performance is humorous, thoughtful, nuanced and subtle. Here is an actress whose interpretation comes across crystal clear.
Elaine was fine too. She played "Elaine Stritch" as I've see her on tv or in her cabaret, but I wasn't disappointed because that's interesting too. She did go up on a line or two, but it felt as the entire audience was rooting for her. In "Liaisons," her delivery made me think "Oh, it's Joanne Armfeldt," but it works. She's more beer hall and low brow broad than champagne and elegant lady, but she's proud and giving. Her Madame is also charming and very funny. I loved her interpretation as a loving, doting grandmother. She took time to smile and be patient with her granddaughter Fredrika Armfeldt, played last night by Katherine McNamera, and seemed genuinely adoring. She definitely had a strong finish.
At every entrance and after every number, the very full house showed its appreciation. Both Bernadette's and Elaine's entrance nearly stopped the show. The supporting cast was every bit as good as they were with the previous stars and I continue to love Alexander Hanson, Hunter Ryan Herlicka, Aaron Lazar and Erin Davie. This quartet manages perfect delivery for huge laughs.
The curtain call was loud and long, with lots of call backs and press photographers were there to take pictures - as usual, Walter McBride's are my favorite.
It was a very special night on Broadway. Mr. Sondheim, Maestro James Levine, Holland Taylor, Liz Smith, various Broadway types, and many of my friends, whom I met because of Bernadette, were in attendance and were seated throughout all three tiers.
It felt almost like that special day back on May 30, 2004 when we met because it was Bernadette's final performance in "Gypsy." That time was to celebrate the ending of run and while triumphant, it was sad; this time was to celebrate what will undoubtedly be a run for the ages. This performance by Bernadette, or her one of kind co-star Elaine, is not to be missed.