When the house lights dim for A Little Night Music's opening night, it will be both the end and the beginning for Peter Jorgensen and Katey Wright.
The end, that is, of a long road of work to get to this point – and the beginning of a whole new chapter in the life of their theatre company, Patrick Street Productions.
The husband-and-wife team are New Westminster residents and the co-artistic producers of Patrick Street Productions, their growing company that has established a reputation for producing top-quality professional musical theatre productions on Vancouver stages. Their latest production, Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, is running from May 11 to 21, with previews May 11 and 12 and opening night on Saturday, May 13.
This time, however, their musical isn’t being presented on a Vancouver stage but right here at home at the Anvil Centre Theatre.
“It’s really lovely. It’s a beautiful space. We’re really happy to be here,” Jorgensen says, on the phone Friday morning before starting a full day of rehearsals. “The Anvil is a gorgeous space.”
Not only is its location more convenient for them – they’re closer to home to spend more time with their son, and they can even walk to rehearsals – but the acoustics of the theatre allow them to present a purely acoustic show, with no amplification.
“I think it will give audiences a different experience than what you’re used to,” notes Jorgensen, who’s directing the production. “It’s a different sensation to hear natural sound.”
Wright, who’s starring as Desirée Armfeldt – a role previously played by such stars as Bernadette Peters, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Judi Dench, among others – says it’s a completely different experience as a performer compared to being miked.
Hearing your own voice fed back to you doesn’t allow you the same ability to know what the audience is really hearing, she says, and to let loose in a space relying on just the power of her own voice is freeing.
“It’s a pleasure,” she says. “I feel sort of more authentic somehow.”
A Little Night Music is a better-known offering than many of the shows Patrick Street has presented in the past; shows such as Floyd Collins, Bat Boy: The Musical and The Light in the Piazza haven’t carried the same level of familiarity.
This time, Jorgensen said, they wanted a show with some name recognition to help draw people to their new venue. Sondheim was the perfect choice to combine both popular appeal and the level of intelligence and sophistication that Patrick Street has become known for.
“It’s got such a well-crafted, classic construction. It’s just a beautiful piece,” Jorgensen says, noting Sondheim constantly challenged the form of musical theatre.
And A Little Night Music, with its intersecting love stories of six characters, also explores layers of human complexity through its music – something Sondheim was uniquely skilled at.
“It’s important to us that the music of a musical is a really honest expression of the time and place and story,” Jorgensen notes. “There’s just not a better musical dramatist that’s ever been.”
To bring the show to life, Jorgensen needed to find top-notch talent.
And that he has, beginning with the two actors that were firm in his mind from the start: Wright herself, and Warren Kimmel as her former lover, Fredrik Egerman.
“They’re fantastic together on stage,” Jorgensen says.
With them, he assembled a cast of both well-known and emerging artists – from 13-year-old Elizabeth Irving of New Westminster as Fredrika Armfeldt, to the veteran stage star Patti Allan as the matriarch, Mme. Armfeldt. The cast includes up-and-coming performers Caleb di Pomponio, Arinea Hermans and Rose McNeil, all of whom both Jorgensen and Wright are excited about.
“It’s a great group,” Wright says. “It’s always really great to see that sense of ensemble forming.”
Their concern now, of course, is ensuring that a large audience turns out to enjoy the production.
Jorgensen notes they’ve been working hard to establish their presence in New Westminster, holding their callbacks here, offering a professional intensive workshop at the Anvil Centre, and holding a series of Sundays with Sondheim talks at the Anvil Centre (see related Lively City column here).
They’ve also formed partnerships with local organizations. Douglas College has offered them its black-box theatre as rehearsal space, while stagecraft students at Douglas have also earned work experience by building the set.
“We’re really pleased with this partnership with Douglas; we feel it’s a really mutually beneficial relationship,” Jorgensen says.
The Stage New Westminster, which offers music and dance programs out of its nearby downtown studio, is also partnering with them by providing space for callbacks and rehearsals and by stepping up to offer free child care for five- to 12-year-olds during the Saturday, May 20 matinee (see sidebar story).
Jorgensen is hoping that their presence at the Anvil Centre will also help downtown shops and restaurants as audience members come out for the show – hopefully taking advantage of nearby SkyTrain access to Vancouver - and stay to eat, shop and explore.
For now, it’s back to work getting ready for opening night – and hoping that the stars align for success all around.
“I’m excited to find out what happens,” Wright says.
CHECK IT OUT
What: Patrick Street Productions presents Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, starring Katey Wright and Warren Kimmel
Where: Anvil Centre Theatre, 777 Columbia St.
When: May 11 through 21, with previews May 11 and 12, opening night May 13. Shows Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., with matinees on May 14, 20 and 21 at 2 p.m.
Tickets: Previews $21.50; regular tickets $21.50 through $35.50 (plus service charges). Call 604-521-5050 or buy through www.ticketsnw.ca.