A Little Night Music with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim sits among the pantheon of sophisticated Broadway classics. Based on the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night, it captures the passions and pathos of a group of couples who waltz their way in and out of relationships in turn-of-the-century Sweden.
Aging Madame Armfeldt (Suzanne Young) tells her granddaughter Fredrika (Meghan Fluke) to watch for the summer night to smile. "It smiles three times," she says, "first, for the young, who know nothing; second, for the fools, who know too little; and, third, for the old, who know too much."
Meanwhile back at home, middle-aged lawyer Fredrik Egerman (Will Emory) is trying to settle down with 18-year old Anne (Laura Kavinski), who remains a virgin after eleven months of marriage. Henrik, (Jeffrey Coleman) Fredrik's somber 20-year-old son, who is studying for the seminary, lives with them. Life turns upside-down when actress Desiree Armfeldt (Michele Jenkins Guyton), Fredrik's past lover, reappears and rekindles Fredrik's interest much to Anne's dismay.
Fredrik and his pent-up sexual frustration cannot resist another rendezvous with the charming and worldly Desiree. Unfortunately, Desiree is also involved with Count Carl Magnus Malcolm (Jimmy Heyworth) who requires fidelity of his mistress and tells his wife Charlotte (Angela Sullivan) all about it. Long-suffering Charlotte relates the event to Anne just as Desiree issues an invitation for all The Players to come to her country estate for the weekend. Flirtations, misunderstandings, and revelations ensue.
The score is composed entirely in ¾ time, so that the play is essentially one long waltz. A quintet of Leisbesleiders (Kristin Zwobot, Holly Gibbs, Hillary LaBonte, Edwin Perez, and George Wilkerson) serves much like a Greek chorus throughout the play.
The Spotlighters Theatre is a good venue with its romantic charm of another time and its up-close intimacy. Sondheim is a sharp observer of human nature, and director Fuzz Roark manages to strike the balance between wittiness and wistfulness. The show is musically complex, but the cast seems determined to meet the challenge. There is some unevenness in the quality of the singing, though sometimes the main complaint would be that the singing is too loud for such a small space.
Emory is well cast as Fredrik with a style that seems especially well-suited for the time in which the story is set. Jenkins Guyton's Desiree conveys the sophistication mixed with sadness needed to pull off the crucial musical moment of "Send in the Clowns." Kavinski's Anne bubbles over with frothy delight. As Henrik, Coleman's acting is wooden, but when he sings he brings down the rafters (almost literally). Heyworth is all bombastic arrogance as Count Malcolm, while Sullivan is a comedic gem as Countess Malcolm, who gets some of the best lines in the play. Coby Kay Callahan is saucy as servant Petra. Young's Madame Armfeldt adds the gravitas to balance all the foolishness she sees dancing around her, while Fluke's Fredrika may be wiser than the adults she avidly observes.
Despite the challenges, Roark and musical director Michael Tan, bring the ensemble together with the unity and pacing that the show requires. With its themes of loss, longing, regret and hopefulness, A Little Night Music is a lovely way to spend a summer night.