18 Montrose voice/ Nov. 11,1983
Night Music's Waltzing Fairytale for Adults
By Joe L. Watts
Theatre Under the Stars has opened its
'83-84 season at the Music Hall with a 10th
anniversary production of A Little Night
Music, and has brought in Juliet Prowse,
Larry Kert and Hermione Gingold to head
the cast of this Stephen Sondheim musical
billed as a waltzing fairytale for adults.
Winner of six 1973 Tony Awards, Night
Music is a musical adaptation of Ingmar
Bergman's Swedish film classic, Smtlesof
a Summer Night. The story is elegantly set
in Sweden at the turn of the century when
Madame Armfeldt (Gingold) brings
together for a midsummer weekend in the
country a handful of discontented lovers—
her daughter, actress Desiree Armfeldt
(Prowse); Desiree's former lover, lawyer
Fredrik Egerman (Kert); Fredrik's young
wife Anne, still virginal after 11 months of
mariage; Fredrik's son Henrik, a divinity
student in love with Anne; Desiree's current lover. Court Carl-Magnus; and his
unhappy wife, the Countess Charlotte-
plus assorted servants and other guests.
Amid silver birches and with the "smiles
of a summer night," the lovers juggle their
ill-matched relationships until finally
they fall into proper order.
Night Music is a very stylized, innovative musical, and Sondheim's lyrics and
music are quite sophisticated. A mood-
setting vocal quintet perform before and
during many scenes, helping to explain
and develop the storyline along with the
actors. Night Music's style is considered
light operatic, rather than traditional
The quintet, in this production, all
seemed to have well-trained lovely voices,
but were too hard to understand at times.
Hermione Gingold (an international
treasure of the English speaking theatre)
seemed a bit low key in her performance as
Madame Armfeldt, but then she is
required to perform the entire production
from a wheel chair. However, reported to
be an amazing 85 years young, she still
had a twinkle in her eyes and seamed a
Larry Kert (the original Tony in West
Side Story) was secure and fine in his performance as Desiree's former lover—he
and Juliet had* some nice moments of
Juliet Prowse (possessing a pair of sror-
geous legs) was very capable as Desiiee,
and her rendition of Sondheim's classic
"Send in the Clowns" had the right emotion, if not the right voice.
Early in the play, Madame Armfeldt
tells her granddaughter Fredrika "that
the night smiles three times." TUTS is fortunate in this production to present three
wonderful surprise "smiles."
A bright and professional smile comes
from Henrik (Stephen Lehew) who
laments that all of his advances to his wife
are turned away with "Later, Henrik."
Lehew deserves respect for his technically
fine performance and brings laughter
with his character's romantic frustration.
The second smile is a wry grin for Countess Charlotte (Barbar Lang) whose narcissistic, philandering husband has
driven her to resent men, sex and anyone
who is happy. Lang sings beautifully of
her woes in the touching "Every Day a
Little Death" and is the best actress in the
Later in Act II comes the "musically
best" smile from Petra (Laurie Daniels)
the maid who has dreams of grandeur but
a grasp of reality that she blends powerfully in the "The Miller's Son."
A Little Night Music will play through
□ Stages' Vetting Out'
By Joe L. Watts
As it's second offering in the Women's
Playwright Series honoring the Susan
Smith Blackburn Prize, Stages is present-
production of a young woman's release
ICHAEL MARON PHOTO
from prison and her struggle to cope with
"the outside" hits a very powerful cord
and is a totally accomplished display of
strong, tight direction and honorable first
class acting—theatre at its finest!
Stages had the honor of Norman's presence at their opening night performance.
Norman is the winner of the 1982 Blackburn Prize and the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for
her current Broadway success, night,
Mother. Surely she must have been moved
and proud to have seen her extremely well-
written Getting Out given this almost
flawless rendering by Stages.
At the opening of the play, Arlene (in her
late 20s) has just been released from prison after serving an eight-year term for
murdering a taxi driver, along with a few
incidentals such as robbery and prostitution. She went in a hellion and came out a
meek mouse afraid of her own shadow.
And in this case, that shadow is her
former self (pre-prison) played by a
younger actress. Scenes from her past
when she was a wild animal ready to tear
the world apart occur intermittently along
with the present happenings of her life (a
clever and quite theatrical device used by
Enter a bag full of selfish members from
her past who are not ready or capable of
giving her the support she needs to deal
with her new freedom: the prison guard,
who has retired and has driven her to Kentucky hoping to gain sexual favors; her
former pimp/boyfriend who wants to "set
her up for business again;" and her
mother, a hard and bitter woman who
offers nothing but negative talk of how
difficult her life is going to be, finding a
job, making any good new friends, etc.
Then along comes Ruby, Arlene's
upstairs neighbor in the run-down building she has just moved into. Ruby (an ex-
con, herself) is a cook at a hash house, or
as she calls herself, "the queen of grease."
She offers Arlene the simple honest truth:
you won't make as much cooking and
cleaning as you will on your back, but
whatever you make, you get to keep all of
Arlene isn't sure she can accept this philosophy and is completely destitute, considering the options with which she is
faced. Dare she hope that her life could
someday be a good one?
Norman's text is taut and tough, but
contains touches of humor in looking at
life in the raw. Her delineation of thechar-
acters is excellent.
Director Ted Swindley deserves much
praise for a sharp, compelling production
and for bringing together an impeccable
ensemble of actors. And Stages' cast is an
electric power plant. The energy, intensity
and electricity was wonderful to watch.
Robin Bradley as Arlene underplays her
role with an inner beauty that is very
^Tra^fiJauga as Arfie (the younger
Arlene) generates an explosive perfor
mance that is often hypnotic—a young
actress sure to make a name for herself.
Charlie Trotter is right on the mark as
Bennie the retired prison guard smitten
Jean Proctor presents a well-crafted
characterization as Arlene's bitter and
Dorothy Edwards as Ruby (Arlene's ray
of sunshine) is wonderfully warm with
good comic timing and delivery.
Daniel J. Christiaens as Carl the pimp is
the perfect slimy snake, trying to lead
Arlene back into a life of crime.
Like the values in Norman's drama, the
message here is simple and true: you
should get out and see Getting Out; it will
be time well Berved.
Stages' production will run through
□ Women's Chorus
Slated for Houston
Preview: The Cecilian Singers. Clara Lewis, Conductor; Jack Coldiron. Baritone; Bea Rose, Harpist Program: Purcell. "We Sing to Him," "Evening Hymn;'
Barber, "Melodies Passageres:" Theodore Chandler;
Ginastera, "Cinco Canzoines Populares;" Britten, "A
Ceremony ot Carols," "Rejoice in the Lamb."
By Peter Derksen
Habitues of symphony and opera often
look down upon "amateur" musical
groups, judging that they could hot possibly be as good as their professional counterparts. The fact is that not all highly
talented and trained musicians are able or
willing to lead the concert life, with its
extreme demands of time and energy.
Groups which perform music for the sheer
love of it offer a quality of inspiration
sometimes absent among the mercenaries, and also have the freedom to explore
lesser-known works by the great composers, as in this program.
The Cecilian Singers are a group of 25
women united by their love of serious
music and commitment to make it more
available to their community. Founded in
1977 by Clara Lewis and Joanne Cox,
their purpose is to present choral literature
of the highest artistic quality, either previously written or commissioned for them.
They are one of the only treble choruses
active in this country.
Until the last century, it was relatively
uncommon for women to perform music in
public, particularly in church, so most
choral music was intended to be sung by
men and/or boys. Some composers, such
as Nicolai Porpora and Michael Haydn
(younger brother of Joseph Haydn),
bucked the trend and wrote extensively for
treble voice. The Cecilian Singers have, as
far as they have been able to determine,
offered the U.S. premieres of three of
Michael Haydn's four major works for treble chorus and orchestra, and they are
planning to perform the remaining one
In general, though, few composers wrote
much for treble chorus or understood the
musical qualities of the treble voice. Two
more recent prominent exceptions are
Brahms and Benjamin Britten. Later this
season, the Singers will perform Britten's
Missa Brevis in a concert with the Westminster Choir and the Forth Worth
Guest artists are an integral part of Cecilian concerts, not only to round out programs, but also to give the singers the
opportunity to work with different specialists and better their craft. Past guests
have included the Southwest String
Quartet (Houston Symphony Orchestra
principals), the Fort Worth Chamber
Orchestra, the Texas Little Symphony,
Charles Nelson (an operatic basso from
Dallas), and such varied accompaniments
as a harp ensemble, brass quintet and
The coming concert features lyric baritone Jack Coldiron, head of vocal music at
Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary
in Fort Worth. He is especially noted for
his performances of the'Faure Requiem '<
under the direction of Robert Shaw. Aside
from the solo works in the first half of the
program, he will sing Rejoice in the Lamb.
Although Rejoice was not originally written for treble chorus, this transcription
was authorized by Britten.
This concert, then, will focus on 20th
century composers, though not on 20th
century music, as most people think of it-
ruthless cacaphony. Lovers of vocal music
will not want to miss what promises to be
an exciting and enthralling concert.
The concert will be presented at the
John Wesley United Methodist Church on
Nov. 19 at 8 p.m. For ticket information
and directions, call Clara Lewis at 444-
d Houston Symphony's
Valley of Dry Bones
Neville Marriner, conductor; Robert Tear, tenor.
November 5th Program: Mozart, Symphony No. 35;
Britten. Serenade for Tenor. Horn and Strings; Web-
em. Im Sommerwind: R. Strauss. Suite from Der
By Peter Derksen
Four vividly emotional works performed
with scarcely a trace of feeling should
have been slightly surprising even to longtime Marriner fans. He is on the way to
becoming (in reputation) the Toscanini of
his generation, flooding the market with
superb-sounding precision recordings of
the classics. In particular, he has brought
many fine 18th-century works back into
the active repertoire.
Mr. Marriner, making his Houston
debut, opened the concert with one of his
stock items: Mozart's Haffner Symphony.
The orchestra was immense by this conductor's standards: 12-10-8-6-4 strings (he
has been known to use 6-6-4-4-2). With minute differences, the symphony sounded
exactly like it did when he conducted it in
Boston five years ago, and as he recorded
it on Philips about 10 years ago. (which is
a tribute to the Houston Symphony
Orchestra's level of playing technique.)
Marriner's Mozart is crisp, exact and
Robert Tear, one of the world's leading
operatic tenors, also made his first Houston appearance Saturday night in Benjamin Britten's Serenade. He sang very
well, with almost perfect diction, audible
even over full orchestra. Thomas Beacon
was a model accompanist and soloist on
horn, and contributed most of the vitality
of the performance. He played the modal
Prologue and Epilogue on natural (valve-
less) horn, the pure sound of which, combined with strings, was paradise. Mr.
Marriner led the ensemble through the series of songs in a generally restrained and
direct manner, letting some Mahlerian
intensity loose in the Elegy, set to a poem
Anton Webern's Im Sommerwind ("In
the Summer Wind") is a youthful work
with slight premonitions of his later obsession with concise atonality. As a late
romantic symphonic poem, it is overshadowed by contemporary works by Richard
Strauss, Sibelius and Schoenberg, among
others. Nonetheless, it was a pleasure to
listen to, evoking images of the high Alps
in high summer. Marriner's conduction
was, as might be expected, precise and restrained, allowing the music to stand on its
Richard Strauss, ever alert to the commercial potential of his music, extracted
an orchestral suite from his popular opera
Der Rosenkavalier. The suite has become
a popular concert staple, appealing both to
opera lovers who seldom get to hear the
original, and to Strauss lovers who detest
opera. The music captures the brilliant
gaiety of the opera, with its lover's
intrigues, comic episodes and elegant
balls. Though technically excellent, the
peformance was too cold and detached for
my taste. (This would have pleased
Strauss, an unemotional man whose frigidity on the podium was legendary.)
Considering music as having four basic
types of qualities; physical, intellectual,
emotional and spiritual, it is apparent