Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Little Night Music - First Preview Redux

I was feeling quite differently after the final bows of last night's "first preview" of 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.


Xtine said...

Once again, you've captured the evening beautifully with your words.
I'm so glad I threw caution (or in this case finances) to the wind and attended this performance.
Bernadette performs this role as it should be performed. In my opinion, it is her greatest acting role to date; and that includes the multiple times I saw her in Gypsy.

I agree with you regarding Elaine. She's not Angela Lansbury. No one should go in expecting her to be Angela. She's Elaine, and she's great.
Her nerves were there that evening, but the audience was pulling for her. She did not disapoint. A flubbed line here and there; but with her brassy charm (along with help from her costars and stage manager) she gave a fine performance.
I look forward to seeing this production with this cast again.

Tyler Barton said...


This post of yours has made me exceptionally envious of my friends who are visiting New York after our production of High School Musical ends. I would gladly go to see Bernadette Peters as Desire, and I think this show will do nothing but improve in its run. How long do you see it lasting?