A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC
by Stephen Sondheim.
Haymarket Theatre. To 19 May 2001
Runs 3 Hours. One interval.
Review Timothy Ramsden 25 April
Lustrous revival of 1973 waltz-time musical at Britain’s ‘home of Sondheim’.
The title of Sondheim’s 1973 musical may be Mozartian but the source is a rare comedy among the films of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. Smiles of a Summer Night takes Viennese operetta goings on of men and women’s unsuitable and uncontrollable passions and plants them firmly on Scandinavian ground.
Paul Farnsworth’s diaphanous, translucent set captures this perfectly. Furniture flies in and out – even a baby grand piano takes wing, capturing the insubstantiality of human desire, its ability to make life seem a dream. Complemented by Jenny Cane’s nocturnal washes of blue and white moonlight, it’s the perfect setting for Paul Kerryson’s loving production.
Kathryn Evans carries off well the tough task of playing a star, the classical actress Desiree Armfeldt whose past relations with the lawyer Egerman drives the plot. Russell Dixon’s Egerman, a more robust figure than Berman created, gives a fine worldly quality to his canoodlings.
Anna Nicholas achieves a mordant edge as the Countess Charlotte, forced by a bully of an unimaginative husband to betray her old school friend with the truth. Elsewhere the acting is more musical comedy outlining than detailed characterisation though that’s to the good with Julia Goss’s Mrs Nordstrom while no-one would want more of the bible-expounding, sex-discovering adolescent Henrik Egerman, with his crush on his young step-mum than Jody Crosier gives.
Julian Kelly leads band and singers through the waltz-time score, nostalgic even as it mocks the pretensions of surfeited middle-class emotions. Only ‘Send in the Clowns’ suffers, presented as a mush of speech-song, unfortunately accenting the self-conscious lyric at the expense of the sinuously developing melody. Otherwise, this is a great Little Night Music