A Little Night Music

By Evelyn C. McDonald
Arts & Culture Reporter
August 29, 2018 1:00 a.m.

This has been my month for plays. Last weekend I went to see “A Little Night Music” at the Amelia Musical Playhouse (AMP). I have to admit that I’m not a big Sondheim fan but the AMP productions I’ve seen have been good and a friend of mine wanted to see it.

The first surprise was the opening. An imposing man in a tuxedo appeared, opened his mouth, and wonderful sounds poured out. That was Bob McLeary. He was joined by Frank O’Donnell, Lisa Flick, and Jayde Gray. I’d seen Frank in a number of dramas, never realizing that he could sing. These four performers were sort of the Greek chorus of the show, coming out to comment on or explain the actions to follow.

The voices were all good and the actors gave their all for the performance. As usual, I had my favorites. Jeff Groden-Thomas had an excellent voice and stage presence as Frederik. Actors in roles that were meant to be overbearing, were physical as well as vocally so. Kat Tremblay as Anne had clear lovely voice and a giddiness well suited to the part of Frederik’s young bride. Charlotte (Ruthellen Mulberg) had the voice and comedic timing to portray the betrayed but dutiful wife of Carl-Magnus (Chad Miller).
One of the things that must make Sondheim tough to sing is his fondness for arrangements that seem like rounds. Groups of actors singing the same lines in a weird counterpoint. The cast got through that challenge beautifully.

One song in this play redeems all of the difficult to appreciate music that Sondheim wrote. That song is “Send in the Clowns.” Made popular by Judy Collins, it is a deceptively easy song to sing and to get the meaning wrong. I recall that a reviewer discussing the song said that it wasn’t a ballad or even a love song. It was a plaintive reverie of a woman who has grown tired of her life and longs for something else. If this song works, you’re glad you came to see the play. As Desiree, Susie Dodge nailed it.

The costuming was well-done. The orchestra was excellent. Hats off to Amelia Musical Playhouse for this play and five years of providing theatrical enjoyment to us. Someone mentioned that a couple left the island because they felt there was nothing to do. I have no idea how they came to that conclusion. I figure they must not have liked theatre, books, movies, art, photography, the beach, fishing – and so on. We have so much to enjoy here. I’m happy that AMP is part of it.

Evelyn McDonald moved to Fernandina Beach from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. in 2006. Evelyn is vice-chair on the Amelia Center for Lifelong Learning and is on the Dean’s Council for the Carpenter Library at the UNF. Ms. McDonald has MS in Technology Management from the University of Maryland’s University College and a BA in Spanish from the University of Michigan.