Stephen Sondheim has created an impressive array of musicals, and his work has earned him rabid followers - and many will cite as their favorite of his shows the romantic comedy A Little Night Music.
The show is brought to life - brilliantly - in the production being staged this weekend by the ARTS Resident Company at the Renaissance Theatre Ballroom in Huntington.
Set in Sweden in the 1900s, the story centers around an older man, Frederik Egerman (played with authority and humor by James Holley), who has married a young woman, Anne (the luminous Ashby-Lee Foutch) - but when that marriage runs into problems, he looks to his former wife, the actress Desiree Armfeldt (the amazingly talented Lara Donahoe), for comfort (wink, wink).
Complicating that relationship is the fact that she’s already having an affair with the mercurial Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (played with power and bluster by Mike Naglee), who gets insanely jealous - even though he’s also cheating on his wife, the Countess Charlotte (the icy and vivacious Nora Ankrom).
Throw in a lusty maid (the high-spirited Cyndi Mac Fuller), a frustrated son (a powerful performance by Andrew Surber), a wise-beyond-her-years daughter (the lovely Fiona Reynolds), a conniving grandmother (the always-wonderful Mary Olson) and five members of a Greek chorus - plus assorted butlers and servants - and you have a fun collision of personalities and romantic entanglements.
The musical is, of course, loaded with classic songs, including “Send in the Clowns” (as I said elsewhere, it’s worth the price of admission just to hear Lara Donahoe sing this one), “Weekend in the Country” (an amazing number by the entire cast), “You Must Meet My Wife” (sweet and funny) and “The Glamorous Life,” among many others.
The set is minimal, but the setting is intimate - the beauty of the Renaissance Ballroom is that the audience is very close to the performers - perfect for this show. There’s not a bad seat (or bad sound) anywhere in the house.
The costumes are wonderful and often dazzling, reflecting the time period (though how the ladies can sing those wonderful songs while wearing corsets is beyond me).
It’s a terrific show, and kudos to director Bil Neal, choreographer Coni Anthony and the rest of the production crew on a terrific job.
If you like musicals, you’re going to love this one - the cast is amazingly talented, the band is terrific, the songs are a pure delight, and it’s all built around a story that is very satisfying.