Reviewed by Dave Smith
In recent years the Hills Musical Company has successfully taken on some challenging works. Kate Anolak’s production of this quirky Sondheim and Wheeler musical was another such success.
Musical Director Mark DeLaine’s experience and surety were evident throughout. In all parts of the demanding score he ensured the cast’s confidence and clarity.
While there were examples of sensitive acting, this being a Sondheim piece, the mood, plot and back-stories came to us chiefly through the songs. There were several high points. In the first Act, although there is a tendency for the expository songs to drag a little, this cast overcame that. Matthew Randell and Bronwen James as Fredrik and Desiree combined tension and humour in ‘You Must Meet My Wife’, Rod Schultz as Carl-Magnus was powerful in ‘In Praise of Women’ and Myfanwy May as Madame Armfeldt was wickedly reflective in ‘Liaisons’.
At Fredrik and Desiree’s climactic reconnection, Bronwen’s singing of the well-loved ‘Send in the Clowns’ was exceptional – pertinent and deeply moving. In all, the pair handled their gradual rediscovery very sensitively.
Ian Andrew was a vulnerable and credible Henrik, Karina Jay delighted as Anne and Rachel Rai added zest as Petra, particularly in her Act 2 solo. The chorus quintet held the narrative together with well articulated, harmonious commentary.
The costumes were splendid. They established the mood and era precisely and while the set was functional enough, it lacked the detail and authenticity of the costumes.
This was a tight, nuanced production which truly did the company proud.