Love, lust and other assorted human foibles take center stage in The Huntington Theatre Company’s fun season opener, “A Little Night Music.”
Director Peter DuBois smartly steers the classic Stephen Sondheim musical towards humor in order to finds its poignancy. The result is an incredibly playful production that revels in the absurdity of mankind’s antics in the name of yearning.
Everybody’s either doing ‘it’ or desperately looking to in this turn-of-the-last century tale, though seldom with their respective spouses. The result is a riotous hodgepodge of horny high jinks set to a glorious score written almost entirely in a waltz tempo.
Desiree Armfeldt (Haydn Gwynne) is a road-weary, middle-aged actress who’s counted among her many lovers Fredrik Egerman (Stephen Bogardus), a middle-aged man now married to an 18-year old virgin, Anne (Morgan Kirner). His son Henrik (Pablo Torres), an aspiring priest, is secretly in love with Anne.
Meanwhile, Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Mike McGowan) is sleeping with Desiree, much to the chagrin of his wife Countess Charlotte Malcolm (Lauren Molina). They all spend “A Weekend in the Country” at the home of Desiree’s mother Madame Armfeldt (Bobbie Steinbach) where a happy ending doesn’t seem likely.
Bogardus and Gwynne deliver solid turns as Fredrik and Desiree and Gwynne’s “Send In the Clowns” is among the show’s most poignant moments.
But it’s local actors who give this production its heart and color. Steinbach owns the stage in her near scene-stealing turn as the tart-tongued matriarch who has seen (and done) it all, while McCaela Donovan as maid Petra delivers a phenomenal performance that culminates in a stunning rendition of “The Miller’s Son.”
“A Little Night Music” is visually appealing, charmingly naughty and filled with gloriously performed Sondheim music. Talk about a “Night” to remember.
A little info on that famous song
Though “Send In the Clowns,” one of Stephen Sondheim’s most famous songs, has been performed as a stirring ballad by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Judy Collins, Cher, Count Basie and Placido Domingo, it’s really a song about regret.
In the musical “A Little Night Music,” Desiree sings this song after realizing her ex-lover, the one true love of her life, is choosing his 18-year old virgin bride over her. She’s angry, sad, filled with regret over the choices she’s made.
Sondheim later told the New York Times, “'I knew I was writing a song in which Desirée is saying, aren't we foolish, or aren't we fools? Well, a synonym for fools is clowns," before admitting that "Send in the Fools" just didn't have the same ring to it.
If you go
“A Little Night Music”
Through Oct. 11
Huntington Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave., Boston
$25 - $119