The Wonder of Sondheim
Stephen Sondheim, the composer and lyricist of A Little Night Music is brilliant. Every word of every song fits perfectly into the story. There is wit and humour, poignancy and love. There are no wasted choruses, no repetitive lyrics. The Stratford Festival’s production of A Little Night Music, now on the Avon Theatre stage, places the emphasis on the music.
Go prepared to listen to the words and music and take full advantage of this production’s wonderful voices. In addition, the 19-person orchestra offers a rich, luxurious sound.
A widower has married a much younger woman, and while she appears to be happy in her new home, she remains a virgin. The widower, Fredrik, is still carrying a torch for an actress closer to his age, Désirée Armfeldt. But she is in the midst of a fling with the ridiculous Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm, and his wife, The Countess, is well aware of it. Fredrik has a very depressed son, Henrik, who is studying to go into the ministry. Henrik is in love with his step-mother, who is his age. Into this mess of mismatches, throw a crotchety grandmother, an illegitimate child, and a lusty maid and servant.
The story is introduced by a quintet of beautiful, operatic voices: Sean Arbuckle, Barbara Fulton, Ayrin Mackie, Stephen Patterson, and Jennifer Rider-Shaw provide some thoughts through song as the story progresses.
Yanna McIntosh as Désirée is charming as the actress who still loves Fredrik. She gives an excellent, heartfelt rendition of Send in the Clowns. The two men who are vying for her, Ben Carlson as Fredrik and Juan Chioran as the Count, are amusing adversaries. Chioran provides the comedy as the outrageous Count, and Carlson’s more subtle responses add humour. Cynthia Dale as the manipulative Countess shows her ability to scheme, but wins the audience over at the same time. Alexis Gorden gives a childish interpretation of Anne, singing in a lovely voice.
Gabriel Antonacci is excellent as the cello-playing, love sick, forlorn Henrik. Sara Farb as the maid Petra and Matt Alfano as the servant Frid have perfect chemistry, and Farb’s lusty performance almost steals the show. Rosemary Dunsmore is amusing as the cantankerous grandmother, while Kimberly-Ann Truong is sweet as the granddaughter.
There are moments in A Little Night Music where I’m reminded of Stratford’s wonderful, memorable production of Sondheim’s Into the Woods in 2005. Thank you to director Gary Griffin for giving us another wonderful show from Sondheim. Those who like musical theatre especially for the music will appreciate this production.
A Little Night Music continues in repertoire until October 23 at the Festival Theatre, Stratford. Tickets are available at the Stratford Festival at 1-800-567-1600, or check www.stratfordfestival.ca
Photo: Yanna McIntosh as Désirée Armfeldt and Ben Carlson as Fredrik Egerman in A Little Night Music. Photo by David Hou.
A Little Night Music
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Directed by Gary Griffin
Musical Direction by Franklin Brasz
Performed by Yanna McIntosh, Cynthia Dale, Alexis Gordon, Ben Carlson, Juan Chioran et al.
Produced by Stratford Festival
Avon Theatre, Stratford
June 24 to October 23, 2016
Reviewed by Mary Alderson