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A ‘Night Music’ of Heightened Harmony, and Pub Theaters That Put Actors First

It seems appropriate to find Desiree tinkling a triangle during “A Weekend in the Country,” that great closing number to the first act that has a social and sexual geometry all its own. Elsewhere, Alex Hammond’s supremely dashing Count Carl-Magnus — in performance terms, the revelation of the cast — makes terrific use of a soprano saxophone to cap in musical terms his character’s braggadocio.


Cressida Bonas, foreground, and Rosie Ede, left, and Peter Hamilton Dyer in “Mrs. Orwell.”

Samuel Taylor

The musical supervisor and arranger is Sarah Travis, who received her own Tony in 2006 for the Watermill-spawned “Sweeney Todd,” but here she is in ravishing command of material whose abiding wistfulness exists worlds away from the infernal attack of “Sweeney.” Her arrangements for “Night Music” shimmer, wound and enchant. So does the show.

One suspects that Desiree — an actress given to touring as Hedda Gabler — would approve of a play called “Mrs. Orwell.” After all, why not give pride of place for a change to Sonia Brownell, the second wife of George Orwell? He, of course, is the essayist and critic who is enjoying his own re-emergence because of the renewed currency (not least via a stage adaptation on Broadway) of his classic novel, “1984.”

In fact, Tony Cox’s “Mrs. Orwell,” at the Old Red Lion pub theater in London through Aug. 26, is at its least commanding as and when its eponymous figure takes center stage. That, I’m afraid, is the case, however curious audiences may be to see up close the budding actress, Cressida Bonas, who was tabloid catnip during the period (since finished) that she was dating Prince Harry. (The young royal has shifted affections to another actress, Meghan Markle.)

At the preview attended, Ms. Bonas’s voice did not always carry in an auditorium that seats fewer than 90 people, and…

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