No Clowns, Only Pros in SCR's 'Night Music'
There has been a recent influx of Stephen Sondheim shows back in the East, with intriguing revivals of "Sweeney Todd" and "Company," both giving a new spin on something old, and the first which is set to be presented by the Center Theatre Group this season, but for Los Angeles fans of Sondheim tuners, there is one show that stands as perhaps the most sophisticated from the composer, "A Little Night Music," now on stage at South Coast Rep.
A tale of a lawyer Fredrik (Mark Jacoby), marrying a girl 30 years younger than he, Anne (Carolann Sanita), as she is the ripe old age of 18, and the frustration and confusion that ensues as the child bride is unwilling to give up her virginity. Enter Desiree (Stephanie Zimbalist), the long ago lover of Fredrik who catches his eye once again, though she is of course caught up in her own affair with a brute of a gent, Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Damon Kirsche).
As if such a premise were not juicy enough, especially for the scandalously intrigued and tabloid obsessed culture, "Night Music," with a book by Hugh Wheeler, dips further into the romantically challenged Swedish setting, with Fredrik's son Henrik (Joe Farrell) having impure thoughts about his stepmother. On the surface, the premise, based on Ingmar Bergman's film "Smiles of a Summer Night," sounds more like a supermarket paperback, but thanks to the flawless Waltz-timed music from Sondheim, and delicate direction by Stefan Novinski.
The barbarous treatment of "You Must Meet My Wife" is both cheeky and gentle, thanks to Zimbalist, who also finds time to shine gently singing one of Broadway's timeless classics, "Send in the Clowns," a song summing up a life's list of disappointments, using a phrase from the circus when distraction is needed from a horrible disaster.
Jacoby, no stranger to Broadway or Sondheim audiences, last appearing in the "Sweeney Todd" revival as Judge Turpin, uses all his vocal command to smoothly deliver the cynical lyrics presented through his character.
Musical director Dennis Castellano has many gems to mine from as Sondheim crafted so many memorable notes for "Night Music," including "The Glamorous Life," "Night Waltz" and "The Miller's Son," and treats them all with the utmost respect while heading the chamber orchestra.
South Coast Rep's "Night Music" is a joy through and through, both in its complimentary cast and blue note of design, with scenes and lighting by Sibyl Wickersheimer and Christopher Akerlind.
Tickets to A Little Night Music can be purchased online at www.scr.org, by phone at (714) 708-5555 or by visiting the box office. Performances continue through Oct. 7. South Coast Repertory is located at 655 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa.
Photo - (Top) Marc Jacoby and Stephanie Zimbalist; (Bottom) L-R Damon Kirsche, Stephanie Zimbalist and Mark Jacoby - by Henry DiRocco.