A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC – Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; Book by Hugh Wheeler; Directed by Chris Coleman; Music Direction by Angela Steiner; Choreography by Candy Brown. Produced by the Denver Center Theatre Company (15th and Curtis, Denver) through October 8. Tickets available at 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org.
For those who have seen only the source movie, Ingmar Bergman’s SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT or the movie version of Sondheim’s musical adaptation, will be very surprised to revisit the original stage version of the script. The movie from 1978 relocated it, moving and cutting songs, and eliminating the narrative Greek chorus of minor players to make it more like a movie than the preservation of a play. But those who have had the good fortune to see the Denver Center production will get the full treatment – lush, beautifully set, sung and acted by a cast that knows what it’s doing and why. Eroticism reeks throughout the evening. Even grandmothers and children are not exempt from watching the switching of partners and potential for deception.
For just a sample: One of the main characters is a 50ish lawyer Fredrik (Edward Staudenmayer) who has been married to a 19 year old innocent (Sydney Chow) for nearly a year and has yet to consummate their marriage. It’s been postponed so long that he is almost afraid to bring it up and she had learned tricks that delay the inevitable a little longer. Although she yearns for romance and true love and knows she has settled for comfort and wealth. Fredrik had a mistress in the past, the actress Desiree Armfeldt (Soara-Joye Ross) who just happens to be nearby with her acting troupe. He sneaks away to see her, even though she has a new very jealous lover. Also married. The tug of war begins between the two men, oozes over to the two women all the while encouraged by the wife of Desiree’s lover. See what I mean – the whole thing is about the many faces of adultery.
The story is moved forward by the glorious music of Sondheim. His lyrics rarely rhyme or fit into the usual patterns, but they all come together with such ease. It’s as though the music were in waltz time while the lyrics are to a polka. The duets and quartets are as though violins were playing different melodies in the same key, yet all get to the end at the same time. Hugh Wheeler who wrote the book for this composition must have taken lessons from Tom Stoppard with the smooth way he maneuvers his characters to the country so they can all be together to “work out” their issues and place them in comic situations that reflect both the absurd and the pathetic with humor.
The play is perfectly cast with special kudos going to Mr. Staudenmayer and Ms. Ross for their portrayal of loving old friends. Ms. Chow as the winsome young bride has an amazing voice that explodes out of her tiny body. Cate Hayman is a marvelously down-to-earth and slightly randy hand maiden while Zachary James plays the pompous Count Carl-Magnus, Desiree’s current lover (but soon to be ex). Steven Rich returns from his recent role in THE COLOR PURPLE and local actress Jennifer DeDominici add grace to their roles as supporting characters.
A WOW factor of 8.75!!