"A Little Night Music" at the Walter Kerr Theatre, July 30, 2010
(photo: Joan Marcus)
With an impressive pair of replacements, I returned to see ALNM. I'm so glad I did. As much as I enjoyed the original cast (review: here), it is so nice to see how a change of actor can enhance a show.
Taking on the mantle of Madame Armfeldt from Angela Lansbury, Elaine Stritch gives a two-level performance, though perhaps unintentionally. It reminded me of when I saw the revival of "Nine" a few years ago and Eartha Kitt had taken over the role of Liliane LeFleur from Chita Rivera. Then, Ms. Kitt as Ms. LeFleur was dreadful, BUT Ms. Kitt as "Eartha Kitt as Liliane Lefleur" was fabulous. The effect is similar here with Ms. Stritch. Her classic deadpan line readings don't quite deliver the sophistication one expects from Mme Armfeldt, but taking the performance as a whole, she does make a success of it. There were a few bumpy moments along the way in "Liaisons" but only the truest fans who have the score memorized would have realized it.
Replacing Catherine Zeta Jones, Bernadette Peters as Desiree performs as though she's studied the role for years. Her Desiree is quite a bit more world-weary than her predecessor. She sees that not only is her beauty on the brink, so is her time to fill the rest of her life. Ms. Peters does all this without coming across as jaded or cynical, but still hopeful that her chance exists. At the moment when she thinks all is lost, the classic "Send In The Clowns," she sings through tears with heart-breaking emotion. It is a masterful performance.
The rest of the cast remains strong overall. A few notes: Miss Mallory's Anne has taken on something of an odd drawl in her speech that feels a bit anachronistic at times, but her performance has grown during the run. Miss Davie, too, has grown, finding nuance at opportune moments.
Miss Peters and Miss Stritch are on contract through November. It will be interesting to see if the producers can come up with another pair of replacements this interesting when the time comes.