Some Stephen Sondheim musicals are more recognizable and identifiable than others. Sweeney Todd? Murderous barber. Into the Woods? Fractured fairy tales. Assassins? Assassins. A Little Night Music? Ummm… clowns?
Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, now running at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park through Feb. 26, received a dozen Tony nominations in 1973 and won six, including Best Musical. Most people know it for the Grammy-winning song, “Send in the Clowns.” A melancholy rumination on a life filled with regret, it became a standard for Frank Sinatra and a hit for Judy Collins.
Based on the 1955 Ingmar Bergman film, Smiles of a Summer Night, the show is basically a sex comedy. Everybody either is having or wants to have sex with someone else in the show.
Middle-aged lawyer Fredrik Egerman (Larry Williams) has been waiting for 11 months to consummate his marriage with his 18-year-old bride, Anne (Brenna Sammon). Fredrick’s son, Henrik (Samuel J. Gleason), tries to balance his studies for the ministry with his carnal desires. He seeks to relieve some of the pressure with dalliances with a house servant (Kaela Mariano), but that pressure is compounded by his feelings for his young stepmother.
A night at the theater brings stage star Desiree Armfeldt (Daniela Innocenti Beem) back into Fredrik’s life and into her bed, much to the consternation of Desiree’s current fling, the insanely jealous but also-married Count Carl-Magnus Malcom (Michael C. Murdock). Things come to a head when everyone ends up spending a weekend at the estate of Desiree’s mother, Madame Armfeldt (Eileen Morris).
Director Sheri Lee Miller has gathered a cast of North Bay veterans and up-and-coming young talent and produced a very sweet, amusing and melodious show. The veterans are veterans for a reason. Highlights from them include a terrific comedic performance by Taylor Bartolucci as the weary but had-it-up-to-here-with-her-wandering-husband Countess Charlotte Malcom. Beem delivers a wonderfully understated and incredibly poignant rendition of the show’s best-known tune.
The younger folks acquit themselves quite nicely as well. Gleason and Sammons bring earnestness to their characters, and Molly Belle Hart is a delight as Desiree’s young daughter, Fredrika.
Musical director Janis Dunson Wilson expertly guides a 12-piece orchestra through the often-challenging Sondheim score.
By show’s end, everybody ends up in the arms of the right person. It would be great if this show ends up being seen by sizable audiences.
Send in the crowds.
‘A Little Night Music’ runs through Feb. 26 at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. Thurs-Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 2pm. $12-$36. 707.588.3400. spreckelsonline.com.