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December 20, 2009

A Little Review of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury in "A Little Night Music"

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Broadway Opening Of "A Little Night Music" - Arrivals And Curtain CallI went to see "A Little Night Music" last week, without knowing a thing about the show. 

Except of course that it starred the legendary Angela Lansbury and the drop dead gorgeous, not to mention multi-talented, Catherine Zeta-Jones.

The only other thing I knew was Stephen Sondheim penned musical was home to the lovely ballad "Send in the Clowns."

Inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film "Smiles of a Summer Night," "A Little Night Music" is all about sex.  Some romance too, but mainly sex.

In a nutshell, Fredrik Egerman (Alexander Hanson) is an older man married to young chippie Anne (Ramona Mallory) who won't have sex with him even though they've been married for eleven months.  Meanwhile he pines for his lost love, actress Desiree Armfeldt (Catherine Zeta-Jones).  She in turn is involved with the dim witted, married dragoon, Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Aaron Lazar).

What develops from all these "Liaisons" as Desiree's mother, Madame Armfeldt (Angela Lansbury) sings in the 1st Act, is a muddle of sexual complications, misunderstandings and deceptions. 

The show begins and ends with a waltz and that's kind of how the couples end up:  changing partners to suit the music of the plot.

The cast is first rate, led by the luminous Zeta-Jones.  She and Alexander Hanson bring Desiree and Fredrik to vibrant life and are wonderfully matched.  Angela Lansbury unsurprising commands the stage every time she's on it.  She sings with that rich, deep voice and delivers her lines with the effortlessness of a well schooled pro.

Lansbury spends most of her time on stage in a wheelchair and Madame Armfeldt looks so old and decrepit, I was seriously worried Lansbury might be in that bad shape.  During the curtain calls, I was relieved to see my worries were unfounded.  Lansbury was quite beautiful, perky and very un-Madame Armfeldt-like.

The comedy is fine enough for an old fashioned Broadway show, but wasn't nearly as amusing as it was meant to be.  The music isn't of the humming variety, but it moves the story forward and isn't offensive.

The star of the songs, "Send in the Clowns" is sung beautifully by Zeta-Jones with a meaning that is sweet and sad.  It's odd because the song is so melodic it feels like it belongs in another show.  But no matter, this is where it is and this is where it stays.

My main complaint of the show is it wasn't nearly as memorable as I would have liked for the $150 price tag.

It's like years ago when I saw Julie Andrews in the Broadway musical version of the film "Victor/Victoria.  I paid a hard earned $75--the top Broadway ticket price at the time--for an orchestra seat.  Unlike the fabulous movie, the musical was dreadful, but ultimately totally worth it.  Why?

Because for 2 1/2 hours I was just a few feet away from the great Julie Andrews and that iconic voice I've heard since childhood.  That's the only thing that made every penny of that $75 well spent.

I don't feel quite the same way about "A Little Night Music."  Sure it was a kick to see Lansbury and Zeta-Jones, but $150?  No.

I understand Broadway economics and why the ticket prices are what they are, but just understand if you pay the top price for "A Little Night Music," you're going to get a small musical, not a Broadway extravaganza.

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