‘A Little Night Music’ at 42nd Street Moon – A Delightful Weekend in the Country

Jacqueline De Muro, Mark Robinson, Stephanie Rhoads, Joshua Gonzales, Jennifer Mitchell as the Liebesleiders. Photo by Ben Krantz Studio.

Don’t miss this delightful musical with more than a little romantic intrigue.  Mix a jealous dragoon and a mild-mannered attorney into romances with the same woman and you get a weekend to remember with the families (wives and children included). 

The beginning ensemble is charming, blending clear voices and live music with dance choreography that lifts the heart and prepares for the intrigue to follow.  This is a great way to introduce most characters to the audience on a beautiful stage rimmed in Swedish Birch imagery.  Who could ask for more as we move into our own new Fall?

Trixie Aballa as Petra and Samantha Rose Cardenas as Anne. Photo by Ben Krantz Studio.

Anne Egerman (played by Samantha Rose Cardenas) primps and poses with all the hope of a 19 year old teen.  Her husband, attorney Fredrik Egerman (played by Martin Bell), joins her in the afternoon after a busy day.  Bell muses what he should do with the evening awaiting them; should he nap or ravish his new wife Anne? Eventually, he decides to take Anne out to a play in town featuring the lovely Desiree (played by Alison Ewing).  This was the dangerous decision that sets the stage for our intrigue.

Desiree’s mother, Madam Armfeldt (played by Cindy Goldfield), provides some juicy history and etiquette for the family, to her granddaughter. Desiree’s daughter, Fredrika (played by Chloe Fong), is very interested in the tales.  We get a sense that sexuality is easily discussed and accepted in Swedish culture of the 1900’s. 

Alison Ewing as Desiree, Chloe Fong as Fredrika, Cindy Goldfield as Madam Armfeldt, Jack O’Reilly as Frid. Photo by Ben Krantz Studio.

Fredrik renews a relationship with Desiree only to discover that she has a very jealous suitor in Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (player by William Giammona).  In spite of the romantic entanglements, Desiree plans a weekend together with her mother and daughter, and Fredrik with his son and new wife.  Sounds like fun.  The mood changes dramatically, however, when Count Malcolm and his wife, the Countess Charlotte Malcolm (played by Katrina Lauren McGraw), arrive unannounced to join in the festivities.

Anne’s maidservant, Petra (played by Trixie Aballa), provides some enticing encounters with the Egerman family and Fredrik’s manservant, Frid (played by Jack O’Reilly).  Their antics provide a refreshing sidebar to the main drama. 

Katrina Lauren McGraw as Charlotte and Samantha Rose Cardenas as Anne. Photo by Ben Krantz Studio.

Cardenas plays the ups and downs of young Anne using song and movement and attitude.  Her singing is clear and wistful, with a touch of pomegranate. The casting of Cardenas as a nineteen year old teen is a bit of a stretch, but her performance is worth the effort.

Bell presents a hesitant husband, Fredrik.  His singing is nuanced and careful to make his emotions known to all.  After Bell reunites with Desiree, his rendition of “You Must Meet My Wife”, while upbeat, shows an ignorance of Desiree’s trauma. 

Giammona plays a rather polished dragoon Count, boiling with anger at his adversary in love. He sings his song: “In Praise of Women” as a true military man. McGraw does a very gracious job as the Countess Malcolm, plotting the way out of the love knot for all to enjoy. Her song: “Every Day a Little Death” reveals her pain with living in the shadow of her husband’s affairs. 

William Giammona as Count Carl-Magnus, Alison Ewing as Desiree, Martin Bell as Fredrik. Photo by Ben Krantz Studio.

Ewing does a powerful role as Desiree.  Her singing “Send in the Clowns” hauntingly tells of the heartache of unrequited love.  She is the center of the play and manages to steer the direction to sanity or bust, acting out the middle ground safely as our guide to the emotions.  It is a pleasure to see her work.

There are some surprises in this production.  Shai Wolf, as Henrick Egerman, plays a wonderful Cello on stage with the band.  His character is a bit young to match up with Cardenas, but we see the arc of his growth along the way.  Trixie Aballa sings one of the best Sondheim songs of the show: “The Miller’s Son”.  The rapid staccato of her descriptions accentuate the slow, moody focus of her desires.  With her hair down and her peasant dress, she wows the audience into excited silence.

Alison Ewing as Desiree. Photo by Ben Krantz Studio.

Costumes are spactacular. The women have colorful period dresses through many changes, while the men are changing into tails at the drop of a top hat.  Ashley Garlick has done a marvelous job with the costumes to match the amazing dances from Choreographer Allison Paraiso.

The set is simple but elegantly Swedish.  There are some minor problems with the sight-lines for the side audiences, but the large space for the dancing is used effectively.  Set changes are clean and coordinated with the music, for the most part.  The 5-piece band does a great job matching the music to the actors’ needs.  However, because the band is on the right side of the stage, behind the set, the audience on that side of the house did complain a little about hearing the dialog and songs.

This musical sparkles with life and hope, color and bright music and song.  It is the perfect way to enjoy a Fall evening or Sunday afternoon.  This first full musical in the 42nd Street Moon season is a winner, inspiring us to move out of COVID once and for all.

42nd Street Moon cast and crew and house are fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Masks and proof of vaccination are required for all audience.

“A Little Night Music” continues at 42nd Street Moon at 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco, CA. through November 21, 2021. 

For further information and reservations: https://42ndstmoon.org/

Rating: ****

“A Little Night Music,” music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Hugh Wheeler is produced by 42nd Street Moon .  Director: Brandon Jackson, Music Direction: Daniel Thomas, Choreography: Allison Paraiso, Lighting Design: Michael Palumbo^, Scenic Designer: Mark Mendelson, Construction: Patrik Hendrikson, Costume Design: Ashley Garlick, Stage Manager: Toni Lynn Guidry*, Assistant Stage Manager: Alexa Burn*.

Cast: Cindy Goldfield*: Madam Armfeldt, Chloe Fong: Fredrika Armfeldt, Jack O’Reilly: Frid, Shai Wolf: Henrik Egerman, Samantha Rose Cardenas*: Anne Egerman, Martin Bell: Fredrik Egerman, Trixie Aballa: Petra, Alison Ewing*: Desiree Armfeldt, William Giammona: Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm, Katrina Lauren McGraw*: Countess Charlotte Malcolm.  Ensemble (The Liebeslieders): Joshua Gonzales, Stephanie Rhoads*, Jennifer Mitchell*, Mark Robinson, Jacqueline De Muro.

* Member Actors’ Equity Association

^ Member United Scenic Artists


Author: Gary Gonser

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