A Little Night Music
May 5-July 8
Some people may feel that a musical is a lot of songs interrupted by the plot whilst others suspect it’s the plot which has t o endure people bursting into song all over the place. Sondheim, bless him, always seems to get it right, perhaps not least in
choosing intriguing subject matter and enhancing it for nearly every taste with deliciously witty lyrics.
That said, it can be a revelation going to a play about which you know next to nothing; I was quite convinced this was set in Vienna, never mind you don’t tend to associate unbridled passions with Scandinavia. And there’s an eighteen year old virgin, a tricky subject at the best of times, especially these days. The role of teenager besides is always tricky one to portray but Eleanor Sutton does a lovely job, skittish yet charming.
It was Colette, I think,who first described teenagers, Gigi specifically, as being not of this planet. And the writer had an affair with her grandson…basically, what with the starring role of well-loved actress, Desiree Armfeldt, this whole thing seems altogether very Parisian, and like many a French movie, you could easily anticipate the whole thng ending in tears.
So here we have Fredrik, Desiree’s former lover, who is saddled with the child wife along with an emo son, Henrik (a doughty Richard Lounds), the latter being as equally obsessed with religion as sterpmother. Desiree herself is desperately seeking to be rid of her latest admirer, Count Carl-Magnus, while he spurns his besotted spouse, Charlotte. And then she joins forces with Anne to try and sort out at least a bit of happily ever after. Into this tangled web, because every single one of ’em is attempting some form of deceit, ventures Anne’s pert maid, Petra. A mini mirror image of Desiree, she attempt to seduce Fredrik, in turn, being seduced by Frid, from the Armfeldt household.
Such goings-on,,, the stage is expansively broadened to accomodate all the action, and the dancing, although the audience is sometimes expected to suspend belief: for example, somebody sitting on a bench studiously ignoring the couple lying right at their feet. It is also a shame the yellowy backdrop resembles nothing so much as a desert scene. The costumes however are beautifully put together and extremely elegant, timelessly so, for it seemed impossible to date them; though Belle Epoque, more or less.
Besides, any grumbles would soon vanish because of the excellent acting, exquiistely matched by the songs: Fredrik, Henrik and Anne vying with Now, Later and Soon, or the contrast between Desiree (ironic) and Fredrik (wistful) in You Must Meet My Wife, then Fredrik and Carl-Magnus, almost in accord, with Perfection. Which was actually achieved by Serena Evans’ heartbreaking rendition of Send in the Clowns.
It’s the kind of play where everybody will have their own favourite character, although you may be a little perplexed by the occasionally inconsistent use of the Greek Chorus quartet, not just commenting and singing but sometimes joining in the action. Anyway, easy to dismiss Fredrik as a scoundrel but Daniel Flynn effortlessly captures your sympathy, not least as his rival, the Count, is a sexist boor of limited intelligence, alarmingly well portrayed by Kayi Ushe. Equally alarming is Mary Doherty as his fiery yet submissive wife who will do anything to capture his affections. Her engagements with Desiree are delightfully bitchy, and the latter struck me as a somewhat kinder version of Mme Merteuil, with Eleanor Sutton’s Anne a less knowing Cecile; considerably less knowing in fact. One could also picture the Countes growing up to become another Madame Arnfeldt, so close does she come to stealing the show. However, that honour goes to Gay Soper, wheelchair-bound and imperious as a Queen upon a throne, undeniably making her mark with crystal clear diction and aperçues. And her pearls of wisdom directed at granddaughter Fredrika, have clearly been absorbed by sensible, sensitive Megan-Hollie Robertson.
Yes, indeed, A Little Night Music certainly provides a lot of pleasure with an evening of sheer delight – clearly, because people have even take the trouble to post reviews on Tripadvisor. Hardly surprising; absolutely gorgeous in every way, now, soon and later.