Cherry Creek Theatre produces its plays in the intimate Pluss Theatre at the Mizel Jewish Community Center, 350 S. Dahlia St., Denver. Performances of “A Little Night Music”: 7 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 17. Tickets start at $33: cherrycreektheatre.org, 303-800-6578.
Set in Sweden at the turn of the century, “A Little Night Music” is perhaps Stephen Sondheim’s best-known musical, especially for the song, “Send in the Clowns ...” Cherry Creek Theatre has mounted a really delightful production of this part-musical, part-operetta, with a shadow of farce, under imaginative direction by the widely experienced Kelly Van Oosbree. To begin with, the voices are exceptionally fine and blend well in various combinations, with musical direction by Traci Kern.
One could just sit back and let the music soak in. But don’t get too relaxed or you’ll lose track of who is playing games with who else — and where??
“A Little Night Music” is based on a film by Ingmar Bergman: “Songs of a Summer Night,” and won seven Tony Awards in its Broadway debut in 1973.
Before the lights go down, three musicians (piano, cello, violin) slide in behind the low backdrop and begin to play the score. A small round stage is in front of Pluss Theatre’s rectangular stage space and action flows smoothly and with very careful blocking.
As lights come up again, we see couples waltzing and singing “Night Waltz” on the raised circular stage. (Director Van Oosbree comments in her notes that all the music in this play is in waltz rhythm, lending a sort of dreamy atmosphere.)
But the action is far from dreamy! We first meet Fredrix, a middle aged lawyer (Brian Merz-Hutchinson), his 18-year-old wife, Anne (Rachel Turner), his son Henrik (Barret Harper — I remember him from earlier Town Hall shows). Henrik is a year older than his stepmother and is immediately smitten with her ... Fredrik’s longtime lover is the splendid actress Desiree Armfeldt (Susie Roelofsz), who also “entertains” stuffy Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Jeremy Rill), who is married to Countess Charlotte (Megan Van De Hay), who also develops an interest in Fredrix ... Then we see Desiree’s elegant mother, played by Susan Long and her teen daughter, Fredrika (Sophia Dotson) — might there be a connection here?? And a pair of servants: Petra (Lindsey Falduto) and Frid (Ryan Belinak) are certainly drawn to each other, when there’s a spare moment!
Grandmother Madame Arnfelt decides to host a summer evening party at her country home and all of the above-mentioned are together.
During all this brief summertime season, they singly and in pairs launch into Sondheim’s nifty, difficult-to-sing lyrics — all in a waltz pattern, including Desiree’s sad but beautiful “Send in the Clowns.”
The whole production is done with tongue firmly in cheek and it’s a fine diversion for a winter evening or afternoon. Director Van Oosbree comments in her notes that the famed Broadway director Harold Prince, a frequent Sondheim collaborator who originally produced and directed “A Little Night Music” on Broadway, referred to it as “whipped cream with knives,” with its sweetness and sharpness.
Cherry Creek Theatre’s production runs through Feb. 17.
Other productions for this year: “Other Desert Cities” March 28 to April 28 and “Tuesdays With Morrie” Oct 31 to Nov. 24.
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