Music and Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
Book: Hugh Wheeler
Director: Alex Clifton
Reviewer: Matt Forrest
Since opening last year, Chester’s Storyhouse is gaining quite the reputation for staging some unique and spell-binding productions. It is such a treat to witness this gorgeous new theatre thrive. As part of the spring season, they are once again adding to the growing repertoire by performing a production of one of Stephen Sondheim’s most successful and best-loved musicals.
First performed in 1973 A Little Night Musicwas inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film: Smiles of Summer Night. The play had been a huge commercial and critical success, winning severalTony Awards. It was later turned into a film in 1977, featuring Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Rigg.
The plot revolves around the complicated romantic lives of several couples that include: high flying lawyer Frederick Egerman,(Daniel Flynn) his considerably younger, innocent wife Anne (Eleanor Sutton) and Egerman’s frustrated teenage son: Henrik. In addition, there is stage actress Desiree Armfeldt (Serena Evans), who has a list of lovers as long as Friday night M6 tailbacks, which include the exceptionally jealous, dragoon Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Kayi Ushe).
A trip to the theatre for Egerman Sr and his good lady wife to see Armfeldt perform, stirs up passions between the actress and solicitor that will change their lives and that of those connected to them forever.
This is a fantastic production, packed full of humour, heartbreak, memorable tunes, stunning images and some jaw-dropping choreography. As with a great deal Sondheim productions, the script is razor-sharp and packed full of stinging barbs and cutting one-liners. In addition, there is a great deal of pathos and tenderness, especially in the scenes between Flynn and Evans as the former lovers.
The cast are excellent from the offset with the opening number,Overture/Night Waltz. Standout numbers include; The Miller’s Sonand of course, the haunting classic that is Send in the Clowns. However, it is the uplifting, A Weekend in the Country that really highlights the strength of the production. This is a song that involves the whole company complete with witty lyrics, a tremendous musical arrangement, and choreography of the highest level from Yukiko Masui, this all blends to create a perfect theatrical storm.
Alex Clifton’s direction in conjunction with Masui’s choreography work in harmony with one another. There are several moments throughout the production where the action resembles a scene from a painting. The set is minimal which does not hinder the production but allows the cast to take full advantage of the Storyhouse’s vast stage.
This is a thoroughly entertaining night at the theatre that will have you laughing out loud one moment and pondering your life choices the next. Be warned though, judging from this production, the person you attend the theatre with may not necessarily be the person you leave with!
Runs until 8 July 2018 | Image: Contributed