Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Directed by Bob Knuth
Music Direction by Josh Walker
Choreography by Kevin Bellie
At Circle Theatre in Oak Park
I saw the sunrise in Stockholm at 3am, I saw the sweet, summer stars fall asleep
A Little Night Music is something of a novelty: it is a musical set completely in waltz time (technically 3/4, although there is also some 6/8). This makes it sound like it could get monotonous: how varied can music be if it’s nothing but one time signature? But America has never had a problem with music in only one time signature (has Lady Gaga done anything that’s not 4/4 yet?), and what’s more, Sondheim’s music is so rich, so varied, so clever and complex, that it is anything but monotony. And the lyrics – well, Sondheim is his usual witty self, making us laugh, and then twisting the knife when we least expect it.
The story’s like this: in turn-of-the-century Sweden, Fredrik Egerman (Kirk Swenk), an old man, has wedded a bright young thing, Anne Egerman (Stephanie Stockstill), whom he adores; and she him, but she cannot bring herself to consummate the marriage. Meanwhile, Fredrik’s son, Henrik (Patrick Tierney), who is supposed to be training to go into the priesthood, is madly in love with his step-mother, who is younger than he is. But when a famous actress, Desirée Armfeldt (Anita Hoffman), comes into town, she and Fredrik rekindle an old friendship, and more. Based on Ingmar Bergman’s film Smiles of a Summer Night, Sondheim’s musical is beautiful and touching, with the famous songs “Weekend in the Country” and the magnificent “Send in the Clowns.”
And Circle carries it off fairly well. The production is very pretty: the sets are simple yet efficient, the costumes are well-made. The sound leaves something to be desired, the music occasionally overpowering the vocal performances onstage. Articulation on the actors’ part also occasionally left something to be desired, and some voices did not blend well, but on the whole the singing was very good. And the actors were all fairly solid as well. Khaki Pixley as Petra, Anne’s maid, gives a great performance. She gives depth to a character that could have been very simple. Jeremy W. Rill as the ridiculous Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm was spot-on, as was his wife, Countess Charlotte Malcolm, played by Deanna Boyd. And Patti Roeder’s Madame Armfeldt, the stolid mother of Desirée, gave a very solid performance, although she was caught tapping her foot once. Stockstill and Tierney had great chemistry, as did Hoffman and Swenk, who all did very able jobs, even when they were not outstanding. Although, to be fair, Ms. Hoffman was under the weather when I saw her. This, undoubtedly, affected, not only her, but the entire performance – which was still very good. This is a great piece of theatre, admirably done. It may not be truly great, but it is nevertheless well done.
Reviewed on 5.1.11
For full show information, visit TheatreinChicago.
At Circle Theatre, 1010 Madison St., Oak Park, IL; call 708-660-9540 ; tickets $22-26; performances Friday & Saturday at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm; running time 2 hours 45 minutes with one intermission; through June 5.