FLASH FRIDAY: A Lot Of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC
Today we are turning our attention to one of the most romantic and rapturous musicals ever composed, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC.
Isn't It Rich?
"Send In The Clowns" is Stephen Sondheim's biggest hit as a solo composer, winning the 1976 Grammy Award for Song Of The Year byway of the classic cover by Judy Collins, yet A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC may very well be his most audience-friendly musical, as well. The lilting, lovely score - exclusively waltz-timed, as is befitting the popularity of the style during the period of the piece; that is, early 20th century Sweden - is enchanting and easily accessible, with many rich, ear-rewarding melodies. Additionally, the complex, predominately comic - and all-too human - nature of the characters as well as the instructive and provocative ideas of love, sex, life and aging that course through the piece make it an adult musical in the very, very best sense. Yes, indeed, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC is much more than merely the big hit song, though, yes, it does feature that, as well.
Loosely based on Ingmar Bergman's celebrated SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT and featuring fantastic performance showcases for the actors portraying protagonists Frederik Egerman, a lawyer, and Desiree Armfeldt, an actress - former lovers - A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC is a sophisticated stunner of a show, overflowing with melody and memorable moments of both comedy and drama. For instance, the Act One Finale presents one of Stephen Sondheim's most expert musical sequences to date - "A Weekend In The Country". Sondheim rightfully won a 1973 Tony Award for his score and it is clear to hear why with sequences as pristinely composed as the aforementioned ballad showpiece and company curtain-closer, to say nothing of the spellbinding and overwhelmingly on point "Now/Soon/Later" - evocatively conjuring up a collection of vivid characters before our very eyes and ears in under ten minutes time. No small feat. And, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC is no small score - it's a wonder.
While the original 1973 Broadway production was a surefire success, the musical comedy has only been revived once on the Great White Way since, with the 2010 Trevor Nunn-directed revival, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones. It is telling that both the original Desiree, Glynis Johns, and Zeta-Jones both won Best Actress Tony Awards for their performances - it's a true gift of a part with one of the best-loved songs in musical theatre history, after all. So, too, did Broadway replacement performer Bernadette Peters bring to the tune her own worthwhile spin, as well. It will be a jovial and joyous day when once again this exquisite entertainment finds its way back on the boards of Broadway.
Who knows? Maybe next year.
A Weekend In The Country
So, now, let's take a look at some of the finest moments from the long and rich legacy of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC - and, in keeping with the theme of the title (emphasis on little), only succinct commentary applies.
First, the first "Send In The Clowns".
Now, soon, "Later" - taught by Sondheim himself.
"A Weekend In The Country", 1990 - twice as upset as in town!
Elizabeth Taylor sends in the clowns in the movie version.
Dame Judi Dench recreates her Olivier-winning Desiree.
Bernadette Peters performs with Sondheim himself at the piano.
Catherine Zeta-Jones enacts "Send In The Clowns" live.
Barbra Streisand gets a sparkling new verse for her "Clowns".
And, since no A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC celebration would be complete without it - "Liaisons"; ala Leslie Caron, no less.
As a special bonus, in honor of recently deceased former Madame Armfeldt Regina Resnik, enjoy the complete 1990 New York City Opera production of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, presented in two acts.
With the waning days of summer upon us and the newly remastered Oscar-winning movie soundtrack now out (more information here), we have all the raison d'etre we need to fall for the charms - and head over heels into the hip-bath - for A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC once again. Raisins (or raisons)? Figs! Succulent, sweet, savory - and a little bit spicy, just like the spectacular show itself.
The moon smiles favorably on all of us who do, after all - all the fools... for love.