The 1973 Broadway hit A Little Night Music is the third in a string of innovative musicals that composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim and director Harold Prince created in the 70s. The first two shows, Company and Follies, had offered a skeptical, even depressing view of middle-aged married life. In Night Music, Sondheim, Prince, and playwright Hugh Wheeler took a lighter approach. Based on filmmaker Ingmar Bergman's 1955 Smiles of a Summer Night, this is a wryly comic yet wistfully sentimental tale of sexual intrigue, complete with that rarity in the Sondheim canon: a happy ending.
Set in Sweden circa 1900, it's a romantic farce about a bohemian actress, Desirée Armfeldt, and her relationships with two married men—her current paramour, a vain military officer, and her former lover, a bourgeois lawyer now unsatisfactorily wed to an 18-year-old virgin who, without realizing it, is actually in love with the lawyer's seminarian son. Sondheim's operetta-style score, set mostly in waltz time, is bubbly and melodic, but also intricate and complex. Linda Fortunato's intimate, minimalist staging for BoHo Theatre allows listeners to hear the masterfully crafted music sung au naturel with no amplification, prettily accompanied by a chamber quartet led by pianist Tom Vendafreddo.
As Desirée, the excellent Kelli Harrington conveys a mixture of irony and gravity that gives the story a solid if unconventional moral anchor. The supporting players are good, though they need to pay more attention to their final consonants for the sake of period style. v