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.
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
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 “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.
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 .