Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Little Night Music, Georgetown Palace Theatre, February 19 - March 14

A Little Night Music at the Georgetown Palace theatre is a giddy delight. Stephen Sondheim’s elegant fable has the magic of a midsummer night in far northern Sweden. The sun never fully disappears, time is in suspension and the world hums with yearning and expectation.

In this gentle world of lovers and fools the story is attractively simple . Sondheim’s music and lyrics lift in subtle fashion the sentimental dilemmas of the cast of vivid, idle upper class characters, transmuting a Feydeau-style farce into something far more touching and poignant.

On opening night Palace Artistic Director Mary Ellen Butler reminded us that for this 1973 piece Sondheim and librettist Hugh Wheeler had been inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s 1955 film Smiles of A Summer Night. Bergman attended and appreciated the musical but commented simply, “These are not my characters.”

Perhaps that’s just as well, for there's little of Bergman's darkness about this glittering tale. These elegant people are all fools for love, each in his or her fashion. Central to the story are a married pair: Frederik Egerman, a gentleman of middle age and considerable gravitas, and his blonde 18-year-old Anne, a breathless young thing who might more properly be his ward than his wife. Alas for Frederik, his young bride is skittish of the pleasures of the flesh. In their 18 months of marriage she has never admitted him to her bed.

Ah, the flesh, its delights and temptations, and the keen edge of time! Love in a summer night “smiles three times,” we hear from the elderly grande dame Mme Armfeldt. A Little Night Music accordingly gives us the innocent intensity of ardent youth, the knowledgeable longing of middle age and the wry wisdom of age.

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