When it premiered in 1973, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC (playing at the Cambridge YMCA thru Oct. 23rd) was unique for its unusual score, in 3/4 (waltz) time and for its overture, sung by the chorus. Thirty-seven years later, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC is a guilty pleasure: a hearty helping of sardonic Sondheim wit served over James Lapine’s lovely book (inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film).
The Metro Stage production has a delightful cast to pose as restless Scandinavians—whose antidote to endless days in the land of the midnight sun appears to be romantic liaisons. To add to their troubles, everyone seems to be involved with the wrong person. Fredrik thinks he adores his child bride. His son, too, loves his father’s bride. The Count thinks he wants Desiree but Desiree loves Fredrik. Talk about lover’s knots! Untangling the couples is the real joy of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC.
Metro has four solid performers in the lead roles so that any combination of the four creates sparks. James Fitzpatrick as Fredrik and Robert Case as the count lock horns in pursuit of Tracy Nygard as Desiree. Case and Shana Dirik lock horns as husband and wife…and Fitzpatrick and Nygard lock arms as lovers in times past. Everyone knows Send in the Clowns (Sondheim’s only crossover pop chart hit) but Nygard gives it new, tragic life. If you need one reason to see Metro’s production, Nygard is it.
Director Maryann Zschau (who has played Desiree herself) gets charming performances from the whole ensemble, especially from John Coons as Fredrik’s smitten son, enamored of Joelle Kross as the immature child bride…and from Mary O’Donnell as the wise grandmama to Desiree’s daughter, sweetly portrayed by Isabelle Miller. Kudos to Neil Fortin (with help from Richard Itczak) for the sumptuous period costumes, to Rachel Bertone for the elegant waltzes and to Maria Duaime for the gorgeous music.