A weekend in the country...or another weekend in the city.

Over Labor Day weekend, Hillary and I had the chance to broaden our show horizons and see A Little Night Music at the Walter Kerr Theater.

With Bernadette Peters. And Elaine Stritch.

BERNADETTE. AND ELAINE. Theater royalty, people. Not to mention that I practically grew up on the 1982 movie version of "Annie." (Fun fact - I've now seen two of the three people in this scene live on a Broadway stage.)

Some of my favorite theater experiences take place when I go into a show knowing nothing about it, and seeing ALNM for the first time definitely falls into that category. I was not expecting the themes to be so modern/bordering on risque, which was a nice surprise. I was also not expecting it to be so funny, which was also a nice surprise. We both knew that Sondheim's lyrics would be complex, fast-paced, and generally genius, which they were. At some point, Hillary and I plan on sitting down with a newly-purchased copy of the cast recording and reading through the lyrics as we listen. (Read: we're such cool people.)

ANYWAYS, back to the point at hand. ALNM is a beautiful, beautiful show. The opening Overture/Night Waltz is absolutely haunting, as Hunter Ryan Herdlicka walks to a dimly lit center stage with his cello and plays a single sustained note while various other cast members enter, eventually blending their individual voices together as one. And then the waltz begins...just gorgeous.

It's only after seeing legends of the stage, such as Ms. Peters and Ms. Stritch, perform that it's easy to see WHY they are legends. The complexity of Sondheim, combined with the caliber of actors, makes this production a very special one. Ms. Stritch was absolutely hilarious as Madame Armfeldt, and I think we still have goosebumps from Ms. Peter's rendition of "Send In The Clowns," arguably one of Sondheim's biggest hits. A song about reflecting on the farcical nature and bitter truth of love gone by could easily become overdramatic, but Ms. Peters handled it with ease. (Sidenote: I was overjoyed that the audience allowed the song to come to its natural conclusion before applauding, rather than drowning out the last few delicate bars and ruining the moment.) She also did a wonderful job handling the humor of Desiree Armfeldt, and I wish I could have seen Tony winner Catherine Zeta-Jones in the role, because I feel that her portrayal might have focused more on the celebrity-royalty nature of Desiree as an actress.

Katherine McNamara was on as Fredrika, Desiree's daughter, at the performance we attended, and it's been decided that we're jealous of her life, and also that our accomplishments thus far in life cannot possibly compare to taking a curtain call multiple times a week with Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch.

It's really impossible to single out other highlights in the cast, because each and every actor was so wonderful in their respective roles. Hunter Ryan Herdlicka plays the confused Henrik Egerman well and sings well too, and has one of my favorite lines in the show ("It isn't gloomy...it's profound"). Leigh Ann Larkin took complete command of the stage with her delivery of "The Miller's Son," an especially impressive performance considering the difficulty of the song. Alexander Hanson is the only member of the cast to have come to the Broadway production of ALNM straight from the West End production that closed in March 2009. As Fredrik Egerman, he played opposite Ms. Peters with great chemistry and good humor, and his expressive voice worked very well on "Now." And Ramona Mallory as Anne Egerman toed the line between appropriately naive and irritatingly naive perfectly in her Broadway debut.

I expected to leave ALNM merely glad to have seen such a well-known, well-respected piece of theater, a "museum piece," so to speak...but I'm actually quite taken by the intricacy of it all, and would love to return if given the chance. There's such a magical quality to traditional musical theater. Sondheim's work is still very much alive at the Kerr, even though...


Madame Armfeldt is not.


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