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A Weekend in the Country: a Sondheim favorite @ Writers’ Theatre

It may not be the “country” but for city-dwelling Chicagoans, it’s close enough. Writers’ Theatre in Glencoe, just outside the city, concludes their twentieth season with Sondheim’s pastoral classic, A Little Night Music. Writers’ Theatre is one of the suburbs’ foremost theaters, recently notable for David Cromer’s successful revival of A Streetcar Named Desire. Though considerably lighter in subject matter, this new mounting of Night Music is still pretty revelatory, more so than the 2009 Broadway run which starred both Bernadette Peters and Catherine Zeta-Jones. This musical has become quite popular in Chicago lately, as this is the third local production in the past year.

Director William Brown has made his version very performance and actor driven, which serves to bring out some of the deeper aspects of the characters. The two acts are punctuated with lovely full-cast numbers, but overall, each cast member is given their time to shine in ear-pleasing duets and solos. Leading this cast in the role of aging starlet, Desiree Armfeldt, is the irresistibly charming Shannon Cochran. Deanna Dunagan, best known for originating the role of Violet in August: Osage County at the Steppenwolf and on Broadway, is endearingly versatile in the role of Madame Armfeldt. Making her professional debut is Shannon Corey as Desiree’s daughter. Miss Corey is as talented as she is beautiful and it will be interesting to see where she goes from here. Brandon Dahlquist shines in the role of Magnus in moments of high comedy and vocally demanding numbers. Though, nobody seems to garner as much attention and laughter as Tiffany Scott who plays the role of Magnus’ jaded wife. Scott’s dry delivery makes her dialogue all the more bruising and hilarious.

Wisely staged, this musical moves at a fairly brisk pace, allowing the music to tell the story. Entrances and exits are highly choreographed and always sensible, especially in the scenes featuring Ms. Dunagan. Beautifully orchestrated music led by Valerie Maze is only slightly hidden behind curtains, but certainly cannot be ignored. Suggestive, yet tasteful costumes done by Rachel Anne Healy show off Writers’ budget.

For a delightful summer farce, see A Little Night Music, in fact, bring your whole family to this soothing musical by one of the most celebrated songwriters of our time. The old library theatre located at 325 Tudor Court in downtown Glencoe, is very inviting and comfortable. Night Music runs through July 8th at Writers’ Theatre. Tickets range from $45 to $75. For more information visit the box office.