Arts Watch: Take a night off for the Stephen Sondheim classic ‘A Little Night Music’

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Arts Watch: Take a night off for the Stephen Sondheim classic ‘A Little Night Music’

Posted on: April 20th, 2014 by tommyj

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If you have seen only the movie, then you haven’t really seen Stephen Sondheim’s brilliant 1973 musical, A Little Night Music. This coming weekend and the next, you will have the chance to experience that theatrical marvel when The Theatre Company presents the musical based on the Ingmar Bergman film, Smiles of a Summer Night.

The musical takes its name from the literal English translation of Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik.

Set around 1900, in Sweden, A Little Night Music is the story of several couples at several stages of life and relationships. It’s most famous song — one of the greatest ever to grace the musical stage — is the enigmatic Send in the Clowns, a hauntingly beautiful story of love and reflection. Although it has been recorded by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Sarah Vaughan to Cher, Sondheim wrote it specifically for Glynis Johns, who starred in the original production of A Little Night Music.

Rehearsals already had started when director Hal Prince suggested to Sondheim that the character of Desirée needed a song in the second act. So, over a period of two days, Sondheim wrote Send in the Clowns. He later said, "Glynis had a lovely, crystal voice, but sustaining notes was not her thing. I wanted to write short phrases, so I wrote a song full of questions."

Randy Wilson, The Theatre Company’s amazing artistic director, said, "Of course, almost everyone is familiar with Send in the Clowns, a song made internationally famous by Judy Collins. But Sondheim’s score crackles with the musical pleasures of Miller’s Son, You Must Meet My Wife, Liaisons and The Glamorous Life.

"What a challenge this difficult score has been for our actors and singers, but with [music director] Chris Hoffman’s extraordinary leadership and skill, they’ve risen to the task. People may not realize, but Sondheim writes for actors who sing. So the style of the show is more comedic than operatic."

Audiences will have a chance to see the talented cast’s and crew’s hard work beginning Friday. The Theatre Company’s production will play Friday and Saturday nights at 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m. through May 5. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for students and senior citizens and $5 for children. For Saturday’s matinees, though, all adult tickets are $15.

Tickets are available at the theater box office prior to each performance or online at www.theatrecompany.com. They also are available Thursdays through Saturdays at the Arts Council of Brazos Valley, 2275 Dartsmouth St. in College Station. Ticket sale hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Fridays and 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturdays.

Anyone who knows Wilson knows he is an aficionado of Sondheim and a Theatre Company season wouldn’t be complete without a Sondheim musical.

"I do profess that Stephen Sondheim is the Shakespeare of our times," Wilson said. "Just like the plays of the Bard of Avon, Sondheim’s style of musical theatre is not appreciated by the theatre-going public of his later period. Our times needs escape and release. But in the years to come, I know that the theatre world will have Sondheim summer festivals and revivals of all his intriguing and sometimes enigmatic works."

Asked why he chose this particular Sondheim musical, Wilson said, "Since this is my 20th anniversary with The Theatre Company, I got to choose a show I really wanted to produce.

"Night Music is considered to be one of the best musicals to come out the Stephen Sondheim/Harold Prince/Hugh Wheeler [who wrote the book] collaboration. All three would go on to create Sondheim’s masterpiece Sweeney Todd.

Wilson recalls, "I auditioned for [Night Music] and was in the final call-backs both times.

"But for me the greatest thing about A Little Night Music is the fact that I got to attend the show the Monday night after it won the Tony for Best Musical, Best Actress, Best Book, Best Score, Best Sets, Best Costumes and Best Direction. That Monday night will always be a highlight of my theatre-going life."

He said, "When I first came back to the Brazos Valley, I was so in love with A Little Night Music that I talked the Navasota Theatre Alliance into producing it. The musical proved to be a great challenge to direct and yet a great joy for me, the company and the audience who had never seen anything quite like A Little Night Music, which is such a romantic, grown-up fairytale of a musical comedy.

Wilson said, "For this production, our audiences need to come ready to work just as hard as the actors and musicians to appreciate the glamour and wit that is written in every scene and song."

As always, the cast for The Theatre Company’s production of A Little Night Music is first-rate, including Cynthia Bradford, Stephanie Brown, Taylor Christianson, Adrienne Dobson, Stacy Erskine, Amy Henss, Jeremy Hume, Bella Lee, Wendy Lee (who gets to sing Send in the Clowns), Lynnsey Lewis, Ryan McClure, Mary Otto, Roger Pine, Melissa Quimby, Mike Reeves (making his stage debut), Anthony White, Derek Whitmire, Walker Williams and Matthew Winkler.

Besides Wilson as director and set designer, the crew includes Gary Thomas as producer, Allison Pricer as stage manager, Chris Hoffman as music director, Jonathan Moore as set constructor, Woody Lee on lighting design, Susan Kelly on costumes, Robin Sutton on painting, Tori Lee on properties, Steven Cooley and Travis Campbell as assistant stage managers, Dominic Burke as sound board operator and Alexis Girouard as spot light operator.

Starting with Les Misérables last fall, this has been an outstanding season at The Theatre Company.

As Wilson said, "So do yourself a favor and take time to see the past, the present and the future of the American musical theatre. Attend A Little Night Music."

Shining brightly

For 20 years now, Brazos Valley TROUPE has been shining brightly in the community, training hundreds of children and not a few adults in the art of acting and stagecraft.

On Saturday, the community will celebrate not only those 20 wonderful years, but also the 50th birthday of M.A. Sterling, TROUPE’s talented musical-artistic director, who celebrates the half-century mark on April 27.

Golden, a roast and toast, will in the Oakwood Ballroom at the College Station Hilton, beginning at 6:15 p.m. It is an event not to be missed, but only a handful of seats are available for $60 each, so you better act quickly by emailing TROUPE at trouperinfo@gmail.com.

A host of people, including yours truly, will be roasting Sterling. Sterling may be given a chance to respond. Live entertainment will be provided by recording artists Karan Chavis and Xavier Alcala-Herrera, Brazos Valley LoneStars and Mark Bendiksen and Zaisha Heardmon. Dancing will follow the roasting.

There will be a silent auction benefiting TROUPE.

This promises to be a fun and entertaining evening, so grab one of those last seats if you can.

The Second Annual Pride Community Center Film Festival will unreel Friday and Saturday with nine feature films and 12 short films scheduled.

Brad Dressler, director of the festival, said all the films will relate to topics important to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and its allies, such as bullying, health, gender identity and religion.

"We felt a lot of need to bring films that cover LGBT topics, a lot of them films that wouldn’t be seen in this community until they come out later online or on DVD," Dressler said.

A number of the filmmakers will be at the festival to mingle and discuss their creations.

The festival kicks off with a reception from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel in College Station.

The rest of the two-day event will take place at StageCenter, 201-B W. 26th St., above Mr. G’s Pizza in downtown Bryan.

All events require a ticket for admission. Two-day passes for the entire festival are $20 for adults and $10 for students through Wednesday. After that, the two-day passes will be $25 and $15, respectively. They are available online at www.pridecc.org.

One-day passes for either Friday or Saturday are available at the door for $15 for adults and $10 for students.

GBF, which stands for gay boyfriend, will be the first film screened at 7 p.m. Friday. Dressler describes the film as a "spoofish comedy." At 9 p.m. Friday, the audience will get a first look at Such Good People, a film starring Michael Urie from the TV series Ugly Betty and Randy Harrison from the series Queer As Folk. The film will be released nationally at a later date.

Saturday’s activities begin at noon and run through 10:40 p.m. Feature films to be shown during the Saturday activities include Gen Silent, Heterosexual Jill, Transgender Tuesdays, Route of Acceptance, America’s Most Wanted, The Symphony of Silence and Seventh-Gay Adventists. The other films scheduled Saturday range from animation, documentaries and other short films.

Food and beverages will be available at StageCenter during the viewings.

Dressler said 40 films from nine states and seven countries were submitted for inclusion in the festival. A group of 22 judges narrowed the field to the ones being shown.

In addition to the films, there will be a silent auction featuring works of art, restaurant gift cards, gift baskets and numerous other items. If you can’t make it to the festival, you may bid on any of the items on the community center’s Facebook page at Facebook.com\pridecc.org.

All proceeds from the festival will benefit the Pride Community Center.

A pleasant breeze

The Brazos Breeze Flute Choir will perform its next concert at 6 p.m. on April 27 at A&M United Methodist Church in College Station. The church is located at 417 University Drive.

The Flute Choir will perform a combination of original works for flute choir and some of your favorite light classics as well.

Penny Zent, Brazos Breeze director and founder, said the concert will feature works that were written by well-known composers such as Peter Tchaikovsky, Georges Bizet, and Bela Bartok plus two pop/jazz standards by Dave Brubeck and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Original works to be performed by the Brazos Breeze are by Ladd McIntosh, Vincenzo Sorrentino, Alexandria Molnar-Suhajda, and Judy Nishimura also will be performed.

"There are musical selections on the program that will please everyone," Zent said.

Special guest will be Wayne Smith, drummer for the Big Apple Trio.

The composition of the group is piccolo, C flutes, alto flutes, bass flutes, contrabass flute, string bass and percussion. The Brazos Breeze is conducted by Robert McElroy, former conductor of the Houston Symphonic Band. Members of the Brazos Breeze are professional musicians from cities around the state including Huntsville, Bellville, Brenham, Anderson, Waco, Corsicana, Houston, Fort Worth, and Bryan-College Station.

Admission to the concert is free, but a freewill offering will be accepted to help defray concert expenses.

Stark reminder

People are invited to donate a pair of jeans through Wednesday to the J. Wayne Stark Galleries in the Memorial Student Center at Texas A&M University. The jeans will be used to create a mandala design on the galleries floor. The design is a symbol of the university in Hindu and Buddhist cultures.

The display will be to protest misconceptions about sexual assault and is in conjunction with April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

After the display, the jeans will be donated to Phoebe’s Home, a part of the Twin City Mission for battered and abused women and their children.

For more information, contact Greg Phillipy at 979-845-8501 or at .

The Stark Galleries is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. Admission is free.

50 great years

StageCenter, the community’s oldest community theater will celebrate the half-century mark or presenting great dramas and hysterical comedies on May 21, a change in date.

The public is invited to enjoy the season preview party starting at 6:30 p.m. on May 21. Light appetizers and drinks will be available. At 7:30 p.m., the new season will be unveiled. StageCenter is planning a season of theater classics from its 49 previous seasons. At 8:15 p.m., the annual members meeting will begin.

There is no charge for the preview event.

StageCenter is located at 201-B W. 26th St., above Mr. G’s Pizza in Downtown Bryan.

• April 26 — Golden, a roast and toast celebrating the 20th anniversary of Brazos Valley TROUPE and the 50th birthday of its managing-artistic director M.A. Sterling, Oakwood Room of the College Station Hilton. Tickets $60, available at bvtroupe.com or Mondays through Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at TROUPE’s 29th Street Studio, 3705 E. 29th St. in Bryan’s Town & Country Center. (www.bvtroupe.com)

• Through May 3 — Monitor & Virginia: Ironclads at War, Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History inside the Brazos Center in Bryan, Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (979-776-2195, www.brazosvalleymuseum.org)

• Through June 8 — Floral Notes, Measures & Melodies, an exhibit by the Benz School of Floral Design at Texas A&M’s J. Wayne Stark Galleries, Memorial Student Center at Texas A&M, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and noon to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Free. In conjunction with the exhibit, the Stark Galleries will host a beginning watercolor class for adults, taught by Monika Pate, Saturday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., $30, which includes supplies. For information, contact Greg Phillipy at 979-845-8502 or at .

• Through July 6 — Garden of Glass, an exhibit of floral interpretations in glass, Forsyth Galleries, Memorial Student Center at Texas A&M, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and noon to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Free.

• Every Sunday — Open mics and poetry slams sponsored by Mic Check Poetry, 8:30 p.m. Revolution Café in Downtown Bryan. (miccheckpoetry.com)

• Items for Sunday’s Arts Watch column must be received by noon Tuesday. Send them to robert.borden@theeagle.com.

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