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19 March, 2010

Sondheim's Night Music on Broadway - great fun!

Stephen Sondheim: A Little Night Music. The Walter Kerr Theater, West 48th Street.

As if the composer’s 80th birthday concert the previous night was not enough, we attended Sondheim’s A Little Night Music with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Angela Lansbury and Alexander Hanson at the classic Walter Kerr Theater built in 1921 (originally The Ritz Theater).

It was a splendid and clever production involving a set of about 8 or 10 large smoked glassed doors in a curve across the rear of the stage. This became the great outdoors of the country estate in the second half for the ‘dirty weekend’ which became so terribly complicated.

The beginning was brilliant with Stephen R. Buntroon as the young religious son playing the ‘cello on stage … while his father and new young wife decide they will go to the theater. The plot really gets going when old thespian faces are recognised, not always with happy memories.

‘Ordinary mothers’, ‘Send in the clowns’ and numerous other classic pieces punctuated clever concerted pieces, duets and dance scenes. Ms Lansbury, as the grandmother, appeared in most of her scenes playing patience on the table of her wheel-chair. She has an instantly recognisable voice and persona … and looked perfectly fit and agile in her curtain calls. Likewise Ms Zeta-Jones, Mr Hanson and the rest sang and acted well for a highly polished and exciting show.

Although listening to musicals is not my favourite pastime, the energy and excitement of the actors and audience responses were infectious. To my taste both the 8 piece orchestra and actors were over-amplified, especially for a small theatre with one about 1000 seats.

Another unforgettable experience about New York theatre is coming out of the building onto the pavements at the same time as dozens of other Broadway shows … and then running the gauntlet of the crowds making their way to the Subways, pubs clubs and hotels nearby.

Comments by Andrew Byrne ..