A Little Night Music

At Bloomington Civic Theatre through September 9

Suffice it to say that Stephen Sondheim's take on events revolving around Midsummer's Eve in Sweden near the turn of the previous century is a bit more lighthearted than August Strindberg's in Miss Julie. Night Music opens with an ornate vocal overture that serves as an homage to the notion of glamour, and what follows in this capable and elegant production is sheer entertainment. In the middle of the action is aged widower attorney Fredrik (Alan Sorenson), who has recently married the lovely 18-year-old Anne (Megan Kelly). Anne, we are duly informed, remains a virgin after nearly a year of marriage to Fredrik, and to make matters worse, our understandably frustrated protagonist is saddled with drippy son Henrick (Mark Sweeney), who not only exhibits a Martin Luther fixation but pines with secret ardor for his new stepmother. During a night out at the theater Fredrik sees old squeeze Desiree (Karen Weber) onstage; she spots him as well, and an assignation follows. This displeases Desiree's married lover Carl-Magnus (Kevin Leines), an oafish cad with a taste for dueling. John Command directs and choreographs all of this silliness with a sure hand, and a 23-piece live orchestra ably handles Sondheim's score (exquisitely fancy swells and swirls, mostly in waltz time). This is a show that requires depth of talent from its cast, since nearly every member handles a solo number, and they're uniformly up to the challenge. In the second act Desiree lures Fredrik and Anne to her mother's posh country house, and uncoupling and re-coupling ensues. Any fear that the plot machinations might become tiring is pretty well assuaged with a tart dinner-table scene (Hugh Wheeler supplies the book). Finally, Weber delivers "Send in the Clowns" with an understated, mature depth, and this production nails the world-weary heart of the piece: With its characters ranging from teens to the elderly, all caught up in their various schemes and scams, Night Music is a bittersweet observation on all the little dramas with which we entertain ourselves in mortal life (until, perhaps, we figure out what we really want). The effect, for the receptive, is akin to a cool breeze of clarity on the summer night of the soul.

 
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