The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Programs in Theater and Music Theater at Princeton University will present A Little Night Music, the Tony Award-winning musical by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler. The production is directed by senior Richard Peng and features seniors Hannah Chomiczewski, Kateryn McReynolds, Billie Anna Runions, and Calvin Rusley. Performances are on March 6, 7, 12 and 13 at 8 p.m. and March 8 at 2 p.m. in the Wallace Theater at the Lewis Arts complex on the Princeton University campus, 122 Alexander Street. A talkback led by Professor of Theater Stacy Wolf, Director of the Program in Music Theater, follows the March 13 performance.
Set in Sweden at the turn of the last century, A Little Night Music explores the tangled web of affairs centered around actress Desirée Armfeldt and the men who love her: a lawyer by the name of Fredrik Egerman and the Count Carl-Magnus Malcom. When the traveling actress performs in Fredrik’s town, the estranged lovers’ passion rekindles. This strikes a flurry of jealousy and suspicion between Desirée; Fredrik; Fredrik’s wife, Anne; Desirée’s current lover, the Count; and the Count’s wife, Charlotte. Both men – as well as their jealous wives – agree to join Desirée and her family for a weekend in the country at Desirée’s mother’s estate. With everyone in one place, infinite possibilities of new romances and second chances bring endless surprises.
The musical is based on Ingmar Bergman’s comedy of manners, Smiles of a Summer Night, and won four Tony Awards in 1973 including Best Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Book of a Musical.
The production represents the five seniors’ independent work in pursuit of certificates in Music Theater, which is in addition to their work in their major area of study. The group proposed A Little Night Music as both an excellent and challenging work of musical theater and as a meaningful opportunity for character exploration, which was of interest from both a directorial and acting perspective. The varying ages of the musical’s characters provides an opportunity for the actors to take on roles not often available to college-age performers. Peng notes the extensive physical work he was able to do with the actors in portraying characters who are much older. The team also responded to the themes of love and multigenerational views of love and the opportunity to examine these complex characters through a modern-day perspective. The tumultuous relationships in the show, both comedic and dramatic, the group felt, are not unlike the tumultuous period that college students experience. The musical also provides each member of the large cast with a time to shine.
Richard Peng, who is from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, is majoring in psychology and pursuing certificates (similar to a minor) in the Programs in Theater, Music Theater, and Creative Writing. He has performed in Lewis Center productions of Into the Woods and Machinal, and he served as a technician on the site-specific production of Fefu and Her Friends. He has been a producer and performer with Triangle Club, the student company Theatre Intime, and Playwrights Guild, a student organization dedicated to creating and developing original student theater on campus. While Peng has directed three musicals, this is his first time directing a production in the Program in Music Theater.
Hannah Chomiczewski, an English major from Collingswood, New Jersey, is pursuing certificates in both the Program in Theater and Program in Music Theater. Her engagement with the Lewis Center has primarily been through collaborating on original student work, including Trailing Rhiannon and The World Is My Therapist. She also served as assistant stage manager for I Am in Fifth Grade, You Are in Kindergarten as part of the María Irene Fornés Institute Symposium, a national event co-produced in 2018 by the Lewis Center and Latinx Theater Commons. She has performed in multiple productions through the student theater groups Princeton University Players and Theatre Intime. Chomiczewski will perform the role of Madame Armfeldt.
Kateryn McReynolds, a politics major from Long Beach, California, is pursuing certificates in Music Theater and Theater and will perform the role of Anne Egerman. She has performed in Lewis Center productions of Into the Woods, Trailing Rhiannon, and The Odyssey, and the workshops of new plays, Foreign Bodies and Unbecoming; served as assistant stage manager for Picnic at Hanging Rock; is currently a member of a student-alumna team, one of eight, that are developing original, short theater works based on interviews with early 1970s alumnae for All Her Power: The 50th Anniversary of Undergraduate Co-Education Theater Project, which will be presented in early April; and is directing a new work, Unravellings, written by Chomiczewski, in May. She’s performed in multiple productions through Princeton University Players and the Music Department, and she is directing a new play through Theatre Intime.
Billie Anna Runions is performing the role of Desirée Armfeldt. Runions is an English major from Loveland, Colorado, pursuing a certificate in the Program in Music Theater. She has performed in Lewis Center productions of The Odyssey and two new musicals-in-development, Foreign Bodies and Hildegard. She has also performed with Triangle Club and Princeton University Players and has worked as a stitcher in the Lewis Center’s costume shop on a number of dance and theater productions.
Calvin Rusley is a geosciences major from St. Louis Park, Minnesota, and is pursuing a certificate in the Program in Music Theater. His credits include performing in Lewis Center productions of Into the Woods, The Odyssey, and a staged reading of a new student-written play, and serving as crew on Picnic at Hanging Rock and Fefu and Her Friends. He has also performed with Triangle Club. He will perform the role of Henrik Egerman.
Junior Paige Allen is serving as dramaturg on the production, having studied the work of Sondheim in Professor of Theater Stacy Wolf’s course, “The Musical Theatre of Stephen Sondheim: Process to Production,” and having studied dramaturgy in Senior Lecturer in Theater Michael Cadden’s course last fall.
The rest of the student cast includes seniors Andrew Damian, Harry Fosbinder-Elkins, Thomas Jankovic, and Benjamin Kimmel; junior Mariana Corichi Gomez; sophomores Hannah Bein, Molly Bremer, Sally Root, and Kate Semmens, and first-year student Kate Short.
Under the musical direction of junior Maddie Wu are student musicians Mika Hyman, Allana Iwanicki, Simon Rosen, Christian Schmidt, Matthew Weatherhead, and Andrew Wu, with Christien Ayers as assistant music director.
Students are also taking on key production roles with junior Ricky Feig as set designer, first-year student Rakesh Potluri as lighting designer, senior Jenny Kim as sound designer, and sophomore Ines Aitsahalia as choreographer, with junior Nora Aguiar as stage manager and first-year student Eliyana Abraham as assistant stage manager.
Professionals in production roles include Noelle Quanci as costume designer, Tim Laciano as musical support, and Savannah Yost as sound engineer.
Faculty and guest artist advisors on the project include Suzanne Agins as project mentor, Stacy Wolf as performance advisor, Lawrence Moten as scenic advisor, Tess James as lighting designer, Miriam Crowe as stage management advisor, Eamon Goodman as sound advisor, and Michael Cadden as dramaturgical advisor.
The talkback with Wolf, who is a musical theater scholar, will offer an opportunity for the audience to engage in a discussion around the musical and the work of Sondheim. Her most recent book, Beyond Broadway: The Pleasure and Promise of Musical Theatre Across America was published earlier this year by Oxford University Press. She is also the author of Changed for Good: A Feminist History of the Broadway Musical (Oxford University Press, 2011), A Problem Like Maria: Gender and Sexuality in the American Musical (University of Michigan Press, 2002), and the co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of the American Musical (with Raymond Knapp and Mitchell Morris, 2011). Wolf is a 2017 Guggenheim Fellow and received a 2017 President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton.
The Wallace Theater and Lewis Arts complex is an accessible venue with details available at https://arts.princeton.edu/about/contact/accessibility/. Assistive listening devices are available from the Forum desk upon request when attending a performance. Patrons in need of other access accommodations are invited to contact the Lewis Center at 609-258-5262 or LewisCtr-Comm@princeton.edu for assistance at least two weeks prior to the selected performance.
Tickets are $12 in advance of show dates, $10 for students; $17 purchased the day of performances, and are available through University Ticketing at the Frist Campus Center ticket office or at tickets.princeton.edu.
To learn more about this event, the Programs in Theater and Music Theater, and the over 100 performances, exhibitions, readings, screenings, concerts, and lectures presented each year at the Lewis Center, most of them free, visit arts.princeton.edu.