The staging of the Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler show is ambitious for a grass-roots organization that only began last spring and operates under an Equity guest artist contract: The production is accompanied by a 25-piece orchestra.
Director Patric McWilliams, the company's artistic director, told Playbill.com the sound is as lush and full as the original cast album.
Performances play the 1924 Strand Theatre, the Shreveport house where touring companies usually play. Per the agreement with Equity, only 350 of the 1,500 seats will be sold for River City Rep runs.
The short, one-weekend run represents the troupe's effort to take baby steps in its first season. The Chicago office of Actors' Equity was thrilled that a new union company was forming, McWilliams said, but gave the advice to start slowly — to walk before running — so that the business could take root.
The not-for-profit River City Rep bills itself as North Louisiana's only Equity-affiliated theatre. McWilliams pointed out that there are seven amateur groups operating in the Shreveport-Bossier area. McWilliams said the group will expand to an Equity SPT (Small Professional Theatre) contract in the next year. Three of the cast members of Night Music are Equity members.
McWilliams, a New Yorker who taught theatre at his Louisiana alma mater, nearby Centenary College, for 25 years, came up with the idea of the resident theatre after he left the college in 2005. He discussed the idea with his friends and colleagues in the area, and they all carried the idea forward. River City Rep has a governing board, but no managing director yet. That's a priority, McWilliams said.
McWilliams splits his time between New York, Louisiana and freelance design and directing jobs around the country (in addition to directing A Little Night Music, he is also the show's set and costume designer).
River City Rep's inaugural production in June 2006 was Lillian Hellman's Southern-set The Little Foxes, and it was a hit that prompted financial support from the community.
"Checkbooks really opened up," McWilliams said.
The troupe is not yet supported by government grants, but has received donations from residents and grants from businesses. A recent fundraiser performance of The Women also brought in money.
McWilliams said he expects the company to continue to strengthen and expand and bring on staff members. Future goals include a permanent home, and regular multi-show seasons, just like professional regional theatres around the country.
The cast of A Little Night Music includes Seva May as Desiree, John Gayle as Fredrik, Ellen Lindsay as Anne, Jonathan McVay as Henrik, Jodie Glorioso as Madame Armfeldt, Bill Gallmann, Janin Pou, Heather Bryson, Catherine Barbaree, Karmyn Tyler, Jim Montgomery, Susan Yankee, William Parsons and Jennifer Dowd. Musical direction is by Kermit Poling.
For more information about River City Rep, visit www.rivercityrep.org.