Review: A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC at Pasadena Playhouse

The show sings through the night until May 28

By: May. 03, 2023
Review: A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC at Pasadena Playhouse

Part of its Stephen Sondheim Celebration this spring, "A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC" is another triumph for The Pasadena Playhouse, following up the sublime "Sunday in the Park with George." Based on Ingmar Bergman's 1955 film "Smiles of a Summer Night," the show debuted in 1973 with music and lyrics by Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler. It was an instant smash, winning six Drama Desk Awards, a Grammy, three Theatre World Awards, and six Tonys, including Best Musical, and eventually spawning a hit single of the melancholy ballad "Send in the Clowns," which won its own Grammy for Song of the Year in 1976. It's got a quite a legacy, and the Playhouse extends that legacy.

Review: A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC at Pasadena Playhouse
Merle Dandridge

Similar to the romantic entanglements in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," the show, set in 1900 Sweden, focuses on a fairly large ensemble of characters whose love loves all intertwine one weekend at a country chateau owned by Desirée Armfeldt (Merle Dandridge), an acclaimed and glamorous actress. Music, comedy, and high jinks ensue with a phenomenal Greek chorus moving things along with panache.

Director David Lee imbues the proceedings with a fizzy energy that is critical to the show and, really, to any comedy of manners. He gets shining performances from all of his actors, with Dandridge, Ruby Lewis as a bawdy maidservant, Sarah Uriarte Berry as a wronged wife, and Kaley Ann Voorhees as a flibbertigibbet young woman married to a much older man being standouts. While all the roles are fully rounded, this show really belongs to the women. The handsome, stately scenic design by Wilson Chin is breathtaking and the costumes by Kate Bergh and Casa Valentina are of the highest quality. Everything comes together in this farce, everyone firing on all cylinders.

Review: A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC at Pasadena Playhouse
Chase Del Rey and Kaley Ann Voorhees

Despite the sex comedy aspects of the show, a vein of melancholy runs throughout it, much of it being told through the lens of regret. This isn't encapsulated any better than in Desirée's lament "Send in the Clowns," which is hopeless and hopeful and remorseful and accepting and existential all bound in a plaintively pretty song that has transcended the years. With the cast of characters running the gamut from child to senior, there are many ways to look through the prism of time, those who have so much and those who have so little, those who have regrets, those who are making choices they may regret, and those who don't truly understand the depth and breadth of regret yet. We're all on that spectrum somewhere, and that's what gives the project such weight. And why it continues to endure.

Photos courtesy Jeff Lorch

A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC is performed at The Pasadena Playhouse, 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, through May 28. Tickets are available at, by calling (626) 356-7529, or at the box office.


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From This Author - Harker Jones

Harker Jones has worked in publishing as a writer, editor, and critic for 15 years. He was managing editor of Out magazine for seven years and has written two novels (including the #1 Amazon... (read more about this author)


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