“A Little Night Music” Returns to Cygnet Theatre to Explore the Frailty and Intricacies of Love
TR Robertson …One of Stephen Sondheim’s more musically intricate musicals has returned to Old Town’s Cygnet Theatre, “A Little Night Music”, and judging by the overwhelming response of the opening night audience, the return will be well received. The complexity of the musical score is challenging not only for the orchestra, but also for the performers. The cast Director Sean Murray assembled did a masterful job of weaving their way through this complex score.
The award winning musical was written by Sondheim after he was inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film “Smiles of a Summer Night”. The musical opened on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre in 1973 and was made into a film starring Elizabeth Taylor in 1977. The musical would be nominated for 6 Tony Awards and win 4 for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score and Best Costume Design. The musical would also win 6 Drama Desk Awards and a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album. Sondheim worked with Hugh Wheeler who wrote the book for the musical and the original Broadway production was produced and directed by Harold Prince.
Photos by Daren Scott
The musical takes place in Sweden in the early 1900’s. One interesting feature of the musical is the continual re-occurrence of a Quintet of singers, acting much like a Greek chorus, setting the mood, tone and helping with the storyline. The musical opens with this Quintet singing a blending of songs leading into the “Night Waltz” where we see the principal characters dancing with their “primary” partners, separating and joining with partners they desired to be with and then back to their first partner. We next meet Madame Armfeldt and her granddaughter, Fredrika, who tells her that the summer night will smile three times; “First on the young, second on fools and third on the old”. We will see how this plays out in the musical. We next meet Frederik, a well-too-do, older lawyer who has recently married a very young wife, Anne. Anne is still a virgin, something that is beginning to frustrate Frederik. We also meet Frederik’s son, Henrik, only a year older than Anne and a seminary student who seems to be doubting the path he has chosen. We also meet the sexually charged Petra, Anne’s maid.
As the musical continues, we will meet Desiree, Madame Armfeldt’s daughter and Frederika’s mother, who is an actress/singer and former lover of Frederik. Frederik takes Anne to one of Desiree’s performances and tension arises. Later Frederik slips away to meet-up with Desiree in her apartment. Later that morning, Desiree’s current lover, Count Magnus Malcolm, arrives, only to run into Frederik, and tension arises. The Count is furious, even expressing his anger to his wife, Charlotte. Charlotte is frustrated with her husband’s escapades and plots to get back at him. Desiree designs a party at her mother’s country estate, inviting Frederik and his wife, hoping to woe Frederik. Charlotte, meanwhile, hearing about the invitation, plots with Anne to also attend with the Count and help Anne deal with Frederik while she deals with the Count. Act I will end with a well-choreographed scene involving all of the cast to “Weekend in the Country”, reminiscent of the “Into the Woods” sequence of the main characters entering the woods. Throughout Act I there are a number of songs individual cast members sing relating to their individual frustrations, anxiety and desires which are memorable numbers. Songs such as “Now” sung by Frederik, “Later” sung by Henrik, “Soon” sung by Anne, “Remember” sung by the Quintet, “You Must Meet My Wife”, sung by Desiree and Frederik and “In Praise of Women” sung by the Count.
As you can tell, things will come to a boiling point in Act II as all questions will be answered. Will Frederik and Desiree get back together, will Henrik and Anne get together, will the Count and Charlotte resolve their differences, will Petra meet her love, will Fredrika ever find out who her father is and will there be a happy ending for all? As Frederik says, “Marriage is not one of the easier relationships”. Certainly sounds a lot like a Shakespearean comedy. The most memorable song from this musical will occur in Act II, “Send in the Clowns” sung by Desiree.
Sean Murray, co-founder of Cygnet Theatre and director for this musical assembled a very talented cast made up of a number of actors and actresses appearing on the Cygnet stage for the first time. Each of them were veterans of numerous theatrical productions and many had performed in this musical before. The timing and quality of the voices was evident throughout the musical by each and every cast member. Murray appeared as Frederik. Playing Desiree is Karole Foreman, returning to thee Cygnet stage. Appearing as Frederik’s wife Anne is Cygnet veteran Katie Sapper. Frederik’s son Henrik is Nick Eiter, making his Cygnet debut. Playing the Count Carl-Magnus is David S. Humphrey, also a Cygnet veteran and an audience favorite for his performance as the pompous Count. His wife, Charlotte, is played by Sandy Campbell, who Cygnet debut and playing Madame Armfeldt is Anise Ritchie and playing Frederika for this performance is 12 year old Faith Nibbe, also making her Cygnet debut. Playing the lusty maid, Petra, is Megan Carmitchel, also making her Cygnet debut, as was Jake Rosko who plays Frid, her love interest. The Quintet, appearing throughout the musical, is made up of Joseph Grienenberger, Christine Hewitt, Cody Ingram, Catie Marron and Debra Wanger.
The Cygnet orchestra is led by Terry O’Donnell. Choreographer David Brannen, Stage Manager Craig Campbell, Properties Designer Bonnie Durben, Set Designer Sean Fanning, Wig & Make-up Designer Peter Herman, Costume Designer Jeanne Reith, Lighting Designer Chris Rynne and Sound Designer Chad Lee Thymes all contributed to bring this production to the stage and celebrate another of Sondheim’s great musicals.
Cygnet Theatre is located in San Diego Old Town Historic Park, at 4040 Twiggs Street. The musical will play until April 22nd. Ticket prices range from $43 to $64 with some discounts available. Tickets can be purchased by calling 619-337-1525 or go to www.cygnettheatre.com. Next up for Cygnet is “The Wind and The Breeze” by Nathan Alan Davis, beginning on May 16th,