Clown Around

6th Street tackles Sondheim's 'Night Music'

‘We have sinned!” exclaims a desperately guilty character early on in A Little Night Music, adding, “And it was a complete failure!”

“In our show, that line is worth the ticket price,” proclaims Craig Miller, director of 6th Street Playhouse’s production of the beloved Stephen Sondheim musical. “It’s my favorite moment in the show,” Miller says.

The show, which Miller describes as “an uproariously funny and sexy celebration of the ins-and-outs of love,” has fallen in and out of favor since it debuted in 1973. Currently, it’s on the rise. This month alone there have been productions in Spokane, Bozeman, Mont., Staten Island and over in Napa at Lucky Penny Community Arts Center.

Based on the 1955 Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night, the show is perhaps best known for giving us the song “Send in the Clowns.” More on that later.

In the show, Tina Lloyd Meals plays Desiree Armfeldt, a promiscuous actress hoping to rekindle an old affair with lawyer Fredrik Egerman (Phil Levesque), who has recently married the 18-year-old Anne (Nicole Stanley), who’s too nervous to consummate the relationship. Complicating Desiree’s would-be seduction of Fredrik is her pompously jealous lover Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Stefan Wenger), and his not-so-jealous wife Charlotte (Tracy Hinman). With the addition of some star-crossed step-siblings, a randy maid and a singing quintet, the stage is set for a night of colossal collisions of love, lust and self-discovery.

I played Count Carl-Magnus in college, and I have to say there is literally very little redeemable about him,” admits Miller. “However, he serves an important function in the play, which is to remind us all that misogyny and male chauvinism was, and still is, alive and well.”

Which brings us to “Send in the Clowns.”

“It is a gorgeous song, and I do love it,” says Miller, “and I love what Tina is doing with it. I think we have discovered the way into the song that is really unique. We have decided that the song is not to be played as a defeat. The song has a journey. It starts off hopeful, then the bomb drops, and it ends with the question about losing her timing in love, and the realization that it might be too late. It’s beautiful—if it’s done right, and Tina is definitely doing it right.”