The most produced playwright in (Philadelphia) Arden Theatre history is Stephen Sondheim. No less an institution than the Wall Street Journal wrote that the 2010 Arden production of his SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE was "...one of the strongest Sondheim productions in the past decade."
The most produced playwright in (Philadelphia) Arden Theatre history is Stephen Sondheim. No less an institution than the Wall Street Journal wrote that the 2010 Arden production of his SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE was "...one of the strongest Sondheim productions in the past decade." (Aisle Say saw the Broadway original in 1971 with Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters). Arden Director Terry Nolan was invited by THE MAN himself to be his 'James Lipton' (of "Inside The Actors' Studio" fame) when both appeared on the main stage of The Grand Opera House last month.
Sondheim's genius is such that he can put the word 'ameliorate' in a song and make it work!
With this rich history at The Arden and a Sondheim interpreter, why was this cast chosen? Scenic design by James Kronzer was spare but dramatic, especially the birch trees suggesting the coolness of a Swedish summer night. Lighting design by Thom Weaver created beautiful cameos of the performers. Costume design by Rosemarie McKelvey epitomized the feel of late Victorian Age. And...her choice of umbrellas was exiquisite! The strings-centric orchestra conducted by Eric Ebbenga was superb. Employed were both harp and bassoon in this production where every piece of music is in waltz time, creating a dreamy, sensual ambience.
This is a musical, however, and the singing left so very much to be desired. The lead perpetrator was the leading man himself Christopher Patrick Mullen (Fredrik). His voice is as thin as angel hair pasta but less substantial. Normally when one finishes a solo there is applause. With Fredrik's first "Now", there was nary a twitter. The character itself should be a Hugh Jackman-type Lothario. He portrayed it more cerebral. As former lover to Desiree, one simply could not contemplate chemistry between the former lovers in their intimate scenes. Vocally he could not compete with either (Desiree) Grace Gonglewski in "Send In The Clowns" or most notably with (Count Malcolm) Ben Dibble in what should have been humorous, double entrendre word play in "It Would Have Been Wonderful".
There is no overt side splitting humor in NIGHT MUSIC. But within these gracefully constructed lyrics there are wise and funny moments which, with the right delivery provoke gleeful audience reaction. Both the aforementioned Fredrik and his new and (sigh) still virginal 18 year old wife (Anne) Patti-Lee Meringo have several of them. This potential remained unrealized.
Not having seen the show for such a long time, I had forgotten many of the numbers. The haunting "Everyday A Little Death" was interpreted wonderfully by (Charlotte) Karen Peakes as was "Send In The Clowns" by Desiree, it reflecting on the ironies and disappointments of life. Broadway trivia: Sondheim wrote the latter for Glynis Johns, his first Desiree. Her octave range spanned 0 - 3/4. Sinatra recorded it; followed by Judy Collins. It became his most popular song ever.
Through 30 June ArdenTheatre.org 215.922.1122