A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, now playing at Cygnet Theatre through April 22nd, is a romantic and wistful production that brings a lovely and poignant portrait to the Cygnet stage.
The show opens in 19th century Sweden, and follows the tangled love lives of several couples, and the people around them. With the main focus on the relationships in the sphere of Desiree Armfeldt, this show reminisces and romanticizes the social intricacies of the privileged as they navigate marriage, class, longing, and desire.
Fredrik (Sean Murray) is a successful lawyer, who has a new 18 year old bride Anne (Katie Sapper), and a grown son Henrik (Nick Eiter) from a previous marriage. Fredrik loves to spoil his new, naïve bride, and though he has yet to consummate his 11 month young marriage, he loves that she makes him feel young again.
Henrik is serious and confused about life in general as he struggles with his studies for the priesthood as he flirts with the maid Petra (Megan Carmitchel), and secretly pines for his new stepmother Anne.
Fredrick takes Anne to the theatre to see Desiree Armfeldt (Karole Foreman), the acclaimed if self-absorbed actress who is on tour, while her mother Madame Armfeldt (Anise Ritchie) raises Desiree’s daughter Frederika (played in alternating performance by Faith Nebbe and Ava Harris).
After the show Fredrik and Desiree rekindle their friendship, before being interrupted by Desiree’s current lover Count Carl Magnus (David S. Humphrey) a military dragoon who is hypocritically possessive and demanding of fidelity from both his wife Countess Charlotte (Sandy Campbell) and mistress, while he is loyal being loyal to neither.
The story and the commentary are all set up and commented on by the talented ensemble, Mr. Lindquist (Joseph Grienenberger), Mrs. Nordstrom (Debra Wanger), Mrs. Anderssen (Christine Hewitt), Mr. Erlanson (cody Ingram) and Mrs. Segstrom (Catie Marron).
All these varying story lines come lay the groundwork for the inevitable confrontation of what they all really are longing for and what they will do about making that happen.
Karole Foreman’s Desiree brings a vulnerability to her Desiree, who has some emotional chinks taken out of her armor. Her character alternates between earthy and elegant, vain and vulnerable, in a believable and touching emotional arc. Her ballad “Send in the Clowns” is sung with such rich regret it may break your heart.
Sean Murphy as Fredrik is funny and sweet as a man not dealing well with facing his own age, while trying to reclaim his youth through his marriage, while still pining for his past with Desiree. Katie Sapper as Anne brings beautiful singing and a lot of laughs as his young bride.
David S. Humphrey is vastly entertaining as the Count, bringing a much needed dose of comedy to this emotional affair. His duet “It Would have Been Wonderful” with Murray in the second act is exceedingly well sung and enjoyable, very much in a style of the “Agony” from another Sondheim show, INTO THE WOODS.
Sandy Campbell is an appealing Countess Charlotte as a schemer who is desperately in love with her husband, who is a realist about her situation with her husband and bandies about witticisms as she plots with Anne to cover her broken heart.
Megan Carmitchel as the earthy and flirty maid Petra has a memorable moment with “The MIller’s Son” in the second act, as she has found some fun with Madame’s manservant Frid (Jake Rosko).
Anise Ritchie is sophisticated and formidable as Madame Armfeldt, who taught Desiree all she knows. She shines in “Liaisons” Madame’s commiseration and bafflement at what has become of her refined specialty, companionship and love for a vocation as it has declined in its exchange rate with this new generation. “What was once a gown with a train is now just a simple frock” she laments, “…but it’s a pleasurable means to a measurable end.”
The cast admirably performs this complex music that offers some challenges not often found in other musical theatre productions and is beautifully conducted by Terry O’Donnell and his musicians. This music (most of which is in waltz time) includes high notes for males and females, and duets, trios, a quartet, and complex counterpoint songs with people singing different songs simultaneously, but it never feels anything less than elegant simplicity supporting these performers.
Jeanne Reith’s lovely costumes, Sean Fanning’s elegant set, and Chris Rynne’s lighting all help create a rich and luxurious world for these people to play in.
At over two hours this show takes it’s time exploring the comical and painful dance between these relationships. As its bittersweet beauty unfolds, you’ll find that A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC is worth the waltz.
A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC is playing at the Cygnet Theatre through April 22nd. For tickets and show times go to www.cygnettheatre.com