Review - A Little Night Music

Robert Aicardi
Wicked Local Braintree
April 20, 2015
'Send in the Clowns' featured in Braintree show

"A Little Night Music” means different things to different people.

For film buffs, it’s the musical, set in Sweden around 1900, which was inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s “Smiles of a Summer Night.”

For theater buffs, it’s the show that in its original 1973 Broadway production won Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Music and Lyrics (Stephen Sondheim), Best Book of a Musical (Hugh Wheeler) and Best Director (Harold Prince).

In popular culture, it’s where the hit song “Send in the Clowns,” subsequently performed by singers ranging from Bobby Short to Judy Collins to Frank Sinatra, was introduced.

For director Anthony Rhys Jenkins, producer Jonathan Young and musical director Brett Hinkel, it’s the name of the upcoming Curtain Call Theatre presentation, with performances set for May 8, 9, 14, 15 and 16 at 8 p.m. and May 10 at 2 p.m. at the CCT on 182 Commercial St. in Braintree.

The 14-member cast is headed by Daniel Kelly as middle-aged lawyer Fredrik Egerman, Nicole Mayne Warner as his naïve wife Anne, Nicholas Foster as his confused son Henrik, Janet Ferreri as self-absorbed Desiree Armfeldt, a once-successful actress, and Elizabeth Morrell as Madame Armfeldt, Desiree’s mother.

To longtime Sondheim orchestrator Jonathan Tunick, who won an Oscar for his work on the 1977 film adaptation starring Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Rigg, “A Little Night Music” is “a witty and well-constructed work that embraces and uplifts its audience in an atmosphere of warmth and romantic good nature.”

“I feel it’s really about love in the different stages of life,” said Jenkins, a Cambridge resident who is directing his first Curtain Call show. “It’s a timeless story about people being with the wrong partner and how it works itself out.”

Jenkins speaks highly of the members of the cast, some of whom have previously appeared in productions of Sondheim musicals.

“Right from the beginning, I was impressed with their level of talent,” he said. “Sondheim’s music certainly requires a lot of work and they’ve handled it all with such grace and professionalism.”

This is the first time Jenkins has collaborated with Hinkel.

“It’s good to have someone you can rely on,” the director said  “I can focus more on the characters and leave the musical questions to Brett.”

For Hinkel, a South Boston resident who worked on Curtain Call productions of “Godspell” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” this marks his fourth involvement with a Sondheim show (his earlier credits include “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Into the Woods” and “Sweeney Todd” with a teenage cast.)

“Sondheim loves to write patter songs where the melody repeats but the words never do,” Hinkel said of the composer celebrated for his painstakingly brilliant lyrics. “A Sondheim show is an experience to see for the intricacies of the music alone.”

Hinkel advised the cast of “A Little Night Music” not to listen to recordings of the score.

“I want them to sing the songs, especially ‘Send in the Clowns,’ their own way,” he said. “I don’t want them to have anybody else’s recording in their heads.”

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