Night Music Press

The Kansas City Star

There’s a lot to admire in this enduring piece by Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) and Hugh Wheeler (book). Much of the humor is trenchant, thanks to Sondheim’s wit and Wheeler’s sharp-tongued dialogue, and the music is airy and seductive. This is the show that gave us…”Send in the Clowns,” which in the context of the show is a moving lament that still works its will on an audience.

Spinning Tree Theatre’s production captures…the inherent strengths in the material. Directed by Michael Grayman and choreographed by Andrew Parkhurst, the show brings together some of the most formidable musical-theater talents in Kansas City.

It’s easy to surrender to the actors’ talents and invest in these characters emotionally.

The small orchestra, led by conductor and pianist Angie Benson, was highly effective on opening night…

In addition to being a terrific singer, (Melinda) MacDonald (as Desirée) is a smart, charismatic performer who is too rarely asked to demonstrate her acting chops. She makes the most of the opportunity. MacDonald’s reading of “Send in the Clowns” is a somber show-stopper…

(Charles) Fugate delivers a sly, nuanced performance as Fredrik…

The production brings together four of the finest singing actresses in town…superior comic performances are registered by Molly Denninghoff…Lauren Braton…and Liz Golson…

(Lauren) Braton…has a field day with the embittered Charlotte’s dry sarcasm.

Daniel Beeman…delivers a performance that acquires credibility and emotional resonance as the show progresses.

Vigthor Zophoniasson, who possesses the best voice among the men, is memorable as the hot-headed Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm.

Cathy Wood commands the stage with her nicely executed performance as Madame Armfeldt.

As Fredrika, the granddaughter, young Allison Banks demonstrates obvious talent and impressive poise.

Filling out the chorus and playing minor roles are Devon Barnes, Sarah Morrissey, Zachary Parker and Bob Wearing, each of whom demonstrate strong voices.


The Pitch Kansas City

It can be tough to stay optimistic about young theater companies. When the lifespan of a theater is less than five years, investing in one emotionally can feel as risky as embarking on a new relationship. So heed this bold proclamation from a commitment-phobe; Spinning Tree Theatre is going to make it. The theater’s third season ends on a high note with its production of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music…

Director Michael Grayman elevates a formidable cast to new heights…and each performer makes a sizable impression.

Molly Denninghoff brings infectious, youthful energy to Anne…

Charles Fugate masters Sondheim’s compound meters and wandering lines, wringing crisp humor from each tongue twister in songs such as “Now.”

Lauren Braton is exceptional as the caustic Charlotte… Braton has some of the show’s sharpest comic timing, but she’s also a rich mezzo whose range powers the stirring “Every Day a Little Death.”

It is said that the summer night smiles on the young, the fools, and the old, but I’m convinced a fourth smile is reserved for Spinning Tree Theatre’s production of A Little Night Music.

Under the direction of Angie Benson, the orchestral chamber ensemble blended well, and their sound filled the theater without becoming overpowering, often giving the effect that a full pit orchestra was indeed present.

And for a show that is heavily laden with waltzes – both musical and physical – the dancing was dignified and graceful.

Michael Grayman directs an immensely talented cast…

Andy Parkhurst designed the choreography, which early in Act I is impressive as the performers entangle themselves on stage.

(Charles) Fugate, who is one of the best male leads in Kansas City, is, as expected, fabulous in his depiction as Fredrik. His fine acting skills are matched with a marvelous voice.

(Melinda) MacDonald provides a strong performance that is as grand as her vocals. The solo of “Send in the Clowns” is one of the best songs of the night.

Lauren Braton plays Countess Charlotte Malcolm…her vocals were beautiful and she brought a sarcastic tone to her character that was delightful.

Allison Banks plays Fredrika Armfeldt…if she is any indication of the young talent available in Kansas City, then the future of local theatre is in good hands.

The highly talented Vigthor Zophoniasson plays the jealous Count Malcolm. (He) has a strong voice that blended superbly with Fugate and the others. His rants at Fredrik and Desirée are convicing, demonstrating his dramatic ability.

Liz Golson plays Petra…(her) whimisical quips provide the audience with wonderful moments of humor.

Spinning Tree Theatre is closing out the 2013-2014 season with a grand flair that gets the audience looking forward to next year.