A Little Night Music, 42nd St. Moon’s production, San Francisco, CA

A Little Night Music at 42nd St. Moon

Review by Carol Canter.

The 42nd St. Moon’s production of “A Little Night Music,” my first live theater experience since the pandemic turned all cultural events to Zoom, was a delicious return to the joys of live performance.

The farce, based on Ingmar Bergman’s film “Smiles of a Summer Night,” is far more than its signature song, Stephen Sondheim’s unforgettable, “Send in the Clowns.” Yet that song alone, an aching culmination of longing, desire and regret — is worth the trip to The Gateway Theatre in San Francisco.

Farce plays a large role — in a weekend in the country, where seduction and secrecy on a Swedish estate are in full flower and eros, along with errors and miscalculations, reign supreme.

A Little Night Music, 42nd St. Moon’s production, San Francisco, CA (Photo: Ben Krantz Studio)
Alison Ewing as Desiree and William Giammona as Count Carl-Magnus

Farce is also the pivotal line in the haunting Sondheim song:

Don’t you love a farce?
My fault, I fear
I thought that you’d want what I want
Sorry my dear
But where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns
Don’t bother
They’re here

This poignant self-reflection on human folly turned a musical play that had me wrapped in its sophisticated and seductive repartee performed by a charming and accomplished cast, into a bittersweet lens which all of us, surely by a certain age, use to assess the road we’ve traveled. Alison Ewing delivered a moving and nuanced interpretation of the song in her duet with Martin Bell as they examined their long-ago love affair and contemplated any possible future.

A Little Night Music, 42nd St. Moon’s production, San Francisco, CA (Photo: Ben Krantz Studio)
Jacqueline De Muro, Mark Robinson, Stephanie Rhoads, Joshua Gonzales, and Jennifer Mitchell as the Liebeslieders

A “Greek” chorus clad in dazzling silk dresses and suits comment on the intertwined intrigues while waltzing across the small stage, glasses in hand. They contrast with Madame Armfeldt, the wheelchair-bound family matriarch who brings the cycle of wisdom and regret into counterpoint with her fresh wide-eyed young granddaughter, Frederika — all, of course, while sipping her estate’s finest champagne.

A Little Night Music is a sophisticated, sumptuous and civilized farce rife with plotting and intrigue and hilarity, and always plenty of heart and soul at its core.

A Little Night Music, 42nd St. Moon’s production, San Francisco, CA (Photo: Ben Krantz Studio)
Alison Ewing as Desiree, Chloe Fong as Fredrika, Cindy Goldfield as Mdm. Armfeldt, and Jack O′Reilly as Frid

For a nightcap at home, we watched the best live performances of “Send in the Clowns” we could find on YouTube: Sarah Vaughn, Barbara Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Judy Collins and Judi Dench. Oh, what A Lotta Night Music!

What: A Little Night Music

Book by Hugh Wheeler; Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Suggested by a film by Ingmar Bergman

Brandon Jackson Director; Daniel Thomas Musical Director
Allison Paraiso-Silicani Choreographer

Where: Gateway Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco (nearest BART Station: Embarcadero).

When: Through Nov. 21.

Tickets ($35-$70) & Showtimes: https://42ndstmoon.org/

Photo Credits: Ben Krantz Studio

This article appeared under the same title on Medium.com .

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