The musical play “A Little Night Music,” based on the book by Hugh Wheeler, opened on the UAA Mainstage last Friday. From its first word, the play offers an invitation to a past era of modesty and charm fully enriched by wise and witty life lessons. The performance Nov. 25 left me thoroughly bemused and contemplative.
The play is set in turn-of-the-century Scandinavia, where aristocratic love, laughter, and music abound. Not being one for the traditional and falsified efforts at social elegance, I thought I might gag after the first scene.
However, as the play continued I was hilariously contented and followed the twisted plot rather easily with its sexual innuendos and funny infidelities.
The show opens with an odd bobbling quintet singing about past love and promiscuity. At once, endearing and shocking, the silly group set the stage for a constant thread of sexual tension. The vocal quintet serves as the chorus, beginning and ending the show, as well as fluttering about whenever needed.
The sexual tension that inundates the entire show is first expressed by Fredrik (Brent Bateman), who announces his frustrated attempts at coaxing Anne (Rebecca Cloudy), his still virginal young bride of 11 months, into bed.
Cloudy is highly comedic, with an annoying nasal voice and bumbling of immature ramblings that were difficult to make sense of. She captures the essence of a young trophy wife immaculately.
Fredrik’s ex-wife Desiree (Julia Crossman) is a world-wise actress that has aged well and lives a hopelessly overindulgent life of gallivanting and exotic lovers.
Anthony Lansbury played Fredrik’s son Henrik with profound presense. He had a striking voice and played the part of the unnoticed son well. His shot emotive stint on the cello was very morose and evoking.
My favorite character was the profitable but jaded mother-in-law Madam Armfeldt (Micky Bellden). World-weary from empty liaisons with royalty, playing solitaire and waiting for death, the dark old woman narrates the entire pandemonium with her drunken wisdom about the games men and women play.
The sexual tension within the performances provided a dimension of ambiguity, which was fun to explore. The humor, bright colors and gentle waltz-like movements created a smooth avenue to interpret infidelities in ways most people would never consider. Perhaps, in the author’s opinion, men and women are not engaged in a casual game of love, but rather in a bitter struggle for survival of the fittest.
Midway through the show, their facades are crushed, and suddenly these characters are comic no longer. Instead, they are unprotected, frail, disgraceful and alone. They become aware of how hollow the lives they are leading are.
Swiftly, their misadventures take a startling turn towards reality. They receive the shock of the hard-learned truths and their lessons.
Just as a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down, the humor of “A Little Night Music” has a way of revealing some of life’s lessons. The timeless story is a sort of sweet wisdom worth hearing and taking into serious consideration.
“A Little Night Music” runs Friday-Sunday on the UAA Mainstage through Dec. 11. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $9-$17. Call 786-4TIX for reservations.