Julie McHale, Review(Waukesha Freeman and Bay View Compass)
Stephen Sondheim, considered by many as the ultimate
composer of American musical theater, first gained notice when he wrote the
lyrics for Bernstein’s score for “West Side Story.” Sondheim has a very unique
musical style and is an exceptionally clever lyricist as well.One doesn’t want to miss a word, so vocalists
have to articulate very carefully when delivering his compositions.
Windfall Theatre celebrates its 20th anniversary
with a stunning production of “A Little Night Music.”One can hardly believe the assemblage of
talent that Carol Zippel gathered for this show.Sondheim himself would probably revel in this
showing of his musical on its 40th anniversary.
Set in Sweden in the early 1900’s, it is based on an Ingmar
Bergman film, “Smiles of a Summer Night.” There definitely are smiles in this
show.It swirls along with graceful
dancing, sexual intrigue, amid the witty wisdom of Madame Armfeldt, the elder
of the tribe, so deliciously portrayed by Michelle Waide.
The opening overture introduces us to five strong vocalists
– Matt Wickey, Kristin Pagenkopf, Marcee Doherty-Elst, Isaac Brotzman, and
Heather Reynolds – who set the tone of the whole production.We already sense, under the musical direction
of Christopher Wszalek, that we are in for a melodic banquet. This quintet of
voices appears regularly to provide transitions and emphasize main turning
points in the story.
The plot revolves around Fredrik Egerman, masterfully
rendered by the incomparable David Flores, his second wife, the still innocent
Anne, nicely depicted by the lovely vocalist Emily Pogorelc, his former lover
and actor Desiree, a complex mix of flamboyance and confusion, cleverly
captured by Tamara Martinsek, and another unforgettable couple, the blustering
Count Malcolm (Christopher Elst) and his acerbic wife Charlotte (Laura
Monagle), both of whom cross paths with Fredrik via Desiree.
Two other characters provide supreme delight – Doug Clemons
as Henrik, Fredrick’s tortured son, and the flirty, dirty maid Petra,
hilariously rendered by the inimitable Liz Mistele.Alison Pogorelc does a good job as Desiree’s
daughter and companion to her grandmother, Madame Armfeldt.
Few of Sondheim’s songs enjoy a life beyond his musicals,
with the exception of “Send in the Clowns,” which provides the moving climax of
this show when Fredrik and Desiree realize that they may finally get their
timing right. There are many numbers, however, that are vital to the context of
the story and are beautifully delivered by these gifted vocalists.
Several of these include, “Later” by Henrik; “Soon” by
Fredrick, Anne and Henrik; “In Praise of Women” by Carl-Magnus Malcolm and
“Every Day a Little Death” by Anne and Charlotte. The ensemble number “A
Weekend in the Country”is especially well done, emphasizing in its lyrics
Sondheim’s supreme sense of irony.Mention must also be made of Petra’s strong rendering of “The Miller’s
Son.”Mistele has such a mischievous
quality about her that one has to smile just anticipating her next move.
I can’t rave enough about this powerful show.It already has made my list of “The Best of
2013” and it’s only May.I can’t imagine
another show that will match this one.Because Windfall Theatre has its home in the Village Church at 130 E.
Juneau in Milwaukee, there are no performances on Sunday. The remaining dates
include May 10, 11, 16, 17, and 18. Call 414-332-3963 or visit www.WindfallTheatre.com before all
the seats are taken. This is a small theater and a great production directed by
the multi-talented Carol Zippel.
"A TIME TO LIVE" by Howard Goldstein*****This new play is superb! Highly, highly recommended. Opening night played to a full house. It is such a pleasure to be totally involved in a theatre performance with wonderful humour, the input of Buddhism and the rich symbology of the waters of the Great Lake of Michigan and the seasons. The two actors had incredible chemistry - an essential for this play. I've seen Romeo and Juliet where all was dead - ghastly. Do go and see this play written by talented local playwright - Howard Goldstein at the charming, intimate Windfall Theatre in the Village Church on 130 E. Juneau, downtown Milwaukee. This is a writer who knows how to use his words well - shear poetry.
~Chris Merritt, Opening Night, February 15, audience member
There's nothing that
terrifies us more or gets talked about less than what it means to die - or the
related prospect of soldiering on when those dearest to us are gone. That's the
subject of Howard Goldstein's "A Time to Live," now receiving its
world premiere courtesy of Windfall Theatre - an intrepid company that consistently
stages plays involving those thorny subjects that matter most.
Review of “A Time To Live”
By Julie McHale, Waukesha Freeman “A Time to Live” is the kind of sweet-sad play that
quietly breaks your heart. Written by local playwright HowardGoldstein and performed at The Windfall
Theater in The Village Church on Juneau in Milwaukee, the story features a
recently-married couple – she, a doctor, and he,a professor of Eastern philosophy, living
through the last year of their life together. The setting is in Milwaukee, near Lake Michigan, a
phenomenon of nature that figures prominently in the story.The structure is episodic as the journey of
Madeline and Richard unfolds through the four seasons of the year.Besides the dialogue between the two
characters, both speak directly to the audience at times, giving us some
thoughts they don’t share with each other.
The set design is simple but effective.It was a collaborative effort, shared by
Carol Zippel (who also directed the play), Dan Austin and the playwright Howard
Goldstein. Lighting was designed by Kevin Czarnota and is an important component
in the story as time changes and wanes. The bed dominates the setting, but the
window, the folding screen and the bookshelves filled with the “stuff” of their
lives together also contribute to the story.
Madeline is dying of cancer and has chosen to stop
treatment and try to enjoy the time that remains. Richard doesn’t totally agree
with her decision but tries to be supportive and accepting.A plethora of human emotions reveal
themselves here – confusion, sadness, frustration, anger, love, fear, despair,
hope.Because their personalities are
quite different, of course each character deals with pain and uncertainty quite
differently, but the constant in the story is their steadfast love; albeit how
to express it is far from simple and straightforward.Madeline often seems to be pushing him away,
helping him to learn to live without her, and Richard is either clinging or
escaping.Ironically, his knowledge of
Buddhist teaching doesn’t seem to be a very helpful guide for him.However, by the story’s end, one feels a
peace and acceptance, indicating that both characters have reached some measure
of wisdom in the painful process of facing their mortality.
Beth Monhollen and Christopher Elst are superb in their
roles.We grow to love them both but
can’t quite understand how two such different people ended up together (but
isn’t that always a mystery).
The references to and descriptions of Lake Michigan,
which becomes a symbol of forces beyond our control, a source of beauty and
enjoyment, and a reminder of how life is forever changing, greatlyenriches thepoignant, poetic script.
The intimate space of The Village Church is the perfect
vehicle for a lovely but heart-wrenching piece such as this. Remaining
performances of “A Time to Live” are February 22, 23, 25, 28, and March 1 and
2.All shows start at 8:00 at 130 E.
Juneau Avenue.Call 414-332-3963 or
visit www.windfalltheatre.com for
tickets. There was a full house on opening night, so don’t wait to reserve a
By Matthew Reddin, Third CoastDigest Milwaukee doesn’t see a ton of world-premiere
shows in a given season, so A Time to Live,
at Windfall Theatre, has high expectations built in...this not-quite-a-play – a portrait, perhaps
– has a poetry all its own. Goldstein and director Carol Zippel have brought us
something a traditional play – with a clearly defined rising action, narrative
beats, through-line, climax, etc. – might not have been able to provide with
such simplicity: an honest, unpretentious look at a couple forced to live
through dying earlier than they ever could have imagined...as Time to Live develops, Monhollen and Elst gradually draw us in; every momentary success earns a smile of gladness and every reminder of her disease provokes a visceral tension...Portraits like this have existed in various mediums for decades, and will for decades more. But Windfall’s production of Goldstein’s play works because it stays on the right side of sentimentality and melodrama. Especially for a world premiere, that’s something to love.