Rachel Weinberg has been a freelance theater critic around Chicago for more than three years. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Prior to that, Rachel worked for two years in digital marketing at Goodman Theatre and spent a season as a Marketing Apprentice for Roundabout Theatre Company in New York City. You can read all of Rachel's reviews at RachelWeinbergReviews.com and find her on Twitter @RachelRWeinberg.
Pictured: Peter Robel and Kelli Harrington. Photo by Liz Lauren
By Rachel Weinberg
Summer has finally arrived in Chicago–and with it, BoHo Theatre’s timely staging of the more lighthearted side of Stephen Sondheim in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC. BoHo’s production feels tailor-made for the season, and the company’s production delightfully captures the farcical and frothy tone of this beloved Sondheim musical (with book by Hugh Wheeler). Under the direction of Linda Fortunato, BoHo has delivered a modest staging but one that capitalizes on every inch of the charm this show has to offer. Evan Frank’s set design is sparse but easily conveys a number of different spaces, and Christina Leinicke’s costume designs are period-perfect. And while A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC may be light in tone, the musical’s complicated score is no laughing matter; Tom Vendafreddo’s music direction and Malcolm Ruhl’s reorchestrations make effective use of a four-piece orchestra.
Of course, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC would also be impossible to produce without some stellar singers at its helm—and BoHo has largely found those performers. No production of this musical would be complete without a superlative Desiree Armfeldt, who has the challenge of performing perhaps one of the most iconic numbers in Sondheim’s entire catalogue, “Send in the Clowns.” Happily, BoHo has found such a performer in Kelli Harrington, who is nothing short of a scene stealer. She delivers that famous song with admirable vocal prowess but also delivers the emotion necessary to make it really sing. Harrington manages to hit both the comedic and more somber notes in her role–and even in the moments when Desiree is at her most ridiculous, she finds truth in the character’s actions.
As Desiree’s long-ago lover Fredrik, Peter Robel delivers a solid acting performance but vocally seemed to be stretching a bit. As Fredrik’s young wife Anne, Rachel Guth (currently a senior at Northwestern) is superb. Guth’s crystalline soprano seems to effortlessly float on air. Jordan Dell Harris goes big as the innocent bookworm Henrik, Fredrik’s son—who harbors a secret desire for Anne. While I admire Harris’s dedication to leaning into the role, he perhaps plays the part a touch too wide-eyed and his energy is more outsized than his fellow castmates. Christopher Davis has a strong comedic handle as Count Carl-Magnus, Desiree’s self-important and rather idiotic lover. As his wife Charlotte, Stephanie Stockstill also makes superb comedic work of a role that could easily be overlooked; she is consistently a joy to watch.
The show’s ensemble has some equally delicious turns. Teressa LaGamba has a voice powerful enough to bring down the house, which she absolutely does in the Act Two solo “The Miller’s Son.” She’s in especially good company with ensemble members Emily Goldberg, Rachel Klippel, and Nicole Besa. These actors harmonize together so beautifully and are clearly able to deliver on the more challenging vocal lines in Sondheim’s score. The cast altogether seems to legitimately enjoy themselves while performing the show, which only adds to the audience’s delight.
BoHo’s A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC is a breezy summer treat that will satisfy audiences with a craving for Sondheim showtunes.
A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC runs through July 8th. For more information visit bohotheatre.com.