Legendary Broadway director and longtime Stephen Sondheim collaborator Harold Prince once referred to A Little Night Music as “whipped cream with knives.” It is plain to see its sweetness and sharpness, and it has been immensely fun to explore both.
A mix of both musical theatre and operetta, this 45-year-old show is one of Sondheim’s best. His score, crafted with bitter-sweet music and nimble lyrics, is perfectly complemented by a script by Hugh Wheeler that is full of hilarity and heartbreak. Sondheim and Wheeler frame the story very deliberately with themes and variations of three: three smiles of the summer night, three generations of Armfeldt women, complicated love triangles and, most notably, the use of waltz meter in the score.
I have always been an admirer of Sondheim. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to explore his wit at its sharpest and his musical ingenuity at its best with this incredibly talented group of local artists. They have the training and discipline to perform this advanced score while also being adept at light comedy—not an easy feat.
If you are familiar with this show, you will notice this cast is smaller than usual. Our cast of 10 plays double-duty by also handling what is traditionally sung by five “Liebeslieders,” the Greek Chorus who comment on the action of the play. If you enjoy sports analogies, I would compare each Night Music performance to running a marathon…while singing.
Beyond the music and the laughs, A Little Night Music is, like all good theatre/art, a painful commentary on the human condition. No matter your pedigree, your education or your social status, life will be full of alienation, yearning, love, bliss and pain—a farce, really. Sondheim and Wheeler’s characters live and love vigorously. We can all see ourselves in their foolishness. Everything considered, aren’t we all trying to find some sort of coherent existence after so many years of muddle?