The Game

There have been four film versions of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," and an acclaimed dramatic adaptation from the Royal Shakespeare Co. It was only a matter of time before the novel of intrigue and betrayal was turned into a musical.

There have been four film versions of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” and an acclaimed dramatic adaptation from the Royal Shakespeare Co. It was only a matter of time before the novel of intrigue and betrayal was turned into a musical. After three years in development, “The Game” has finally nested at Barrington Stage, and it is more than worth the wait. This alluring, rich chamber musical is also the first world premiere for the 9-year-old company.

The playground for these mischievous 18th century French aristocrats is the bedroom. The players are familiar: Christopher Innvar is Valmont, the elegantly corrupt roue with an insatiable sexual appetite. Innvar invests the role with steely grace, virile poise and a rich, soaring singing voice. His ally in seduction, the envious, manipulative Marquise de Merteuil, is played by Sara Ramirez, chillingly amoral.

Cristen Boyle portrays the susceptible 15-year-old Cecile, who gleefully announces, “We leave the convent and become coquettes!” Boyle has a sweet light voice, most playfully expressed in “The Music Lesson.” While seated at the harpsichord, she is pawed by her hapless music master, the Chevalier Danceny. Expressively acted by Greg Mills, Danceny is a self-confessed “victim of desire.”

The young Madame de Torvel is Valmont’s pathetic victim, and Heather Ayers offers a knockout turn. Her solo number, “My Sin,” is one of the shows most thrilling moments — goose-bump time.

While cuts are inevitable, it would be a shame to delete a single song. The score by composer Megan Cavallari and lyricists Amy Powers and David Topchik boasts hints of Sondheim’s waltz tuner “A Little Night Music.”

Hewing to the epistolary form of the novel, many musical numbers are posed in terms of correspondence (not unlike “Passion”). In the playful “Until Then,” Valmont lecherously agrees to a menage a trois, while “Just Past Midnight” serves as a saucy prelude to bedtime frolic. “(Make Me) A Lady Like You” is Cecile’s plea for refinement. Valmont’s desperation is expressed in “Wanting Her More,” a beautiful piece that reflects an inspirational nod to “Send in the Clowns.”

Director Julianne Boyd has staged the piece with a deft balance of sexual tension and musical allure. A stately masked ball offers a hint of courtly choreography, and prior to a dour finale there is a dashing bit of swordplay (the fight director is uncredited).

Michael Anania, resident designer at the New Jersey Paper Mill, has crafted a simple yet extravagantly handsome set, with gleaming chandeliers, candelabras and marble garden benches. From bedrooms to ballrooms, the production is marked by Anania’s customary sense of grace and glow.

Jeff Croiter’s intimate lighting design is perfectly suited for a midnight indiscretion. Fabio Toblini’s period costumes are ravishing, with rustling hooped gowns that offer little protection from the groping hands of lecherous gentlemen.

The musical is likely to move to other regional theaters for additional pruning and sharpening, but even as it stands now, “The Game” is far from up. In fact, it’s rare to find such an enriching and accomplished musical on the straw hat trail.

The Game

Barrington Stage Co., Consolati Performing Arts Center, Sheffield, Mass.; 470 Capacity; $45 top

  • Production: A Barrington Stage Co. presentation of a musical in two acts based on the novel "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" by Choderlos de Laclos, with book and lyrics by Amy Powers and David Topchik, music by Megan Cavallari. Directed by Julianne Boyd.
  • Crew: Choreography, Jan Leys. Set, Michael Anania; costumes, Fabio Toblini; lighting, Jeff Croiter; sound, Randy Hansen; musical director and orchestrations, Michael Morris; stage manager, Renee Lutz. Artistic director, Boyd. Opened Aug. 7, 2003. Reviewed Aug. 22. Running time: <B>2 HOURS, 40 MIN. </B> Musical numbers: "A Most Entertaining Time," "A Lady Like You," "The Game," "The Music Lesson," "Certain Women," "The Opera," "Until Then," "Just Past Midnight," "Wanting Her More," "I Need You," "Be a Bride," "They're Only Men," "Love Does What Love Does," "Love Is Better," "My Virtuous Friend," "My Sin," "Finally, Finally," "Victory Is Mine."
  • Cast: Cecile - Cristen Boyle Madame de Volanges - Griffin Gardner Marquise de Merteuil - Sara Ramirez Vicomte de Valmont - Christopher Innvar Chevalier Danceny - Greg Mills Madame de Torvel - Heather Ayers Madame de Rosemonde - Joy Franz Diva - Kelly Ellen Miller Tenor - Jason Watkins Emilie - Chrysten Peddie Azolan - Lee Rosen Servant - Jesse Sullivan
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