Left - Erica Lovell, Sigrid Thornton and Nancye Hayes. Cover - Jacqueline Dark, Sigrid Thornton and Jane Parkin. Photos - Jeff Busby
A recent TIME magazine article on arguably our greatest living musical theatre composer Stephen Sondheim answers the question of which "young Sondheim" could replace the man. The answer it says is Stephen Sondheim. At nearly 80 years of age, Sondheim and his body of work continue to receive attention and new productions.
There are currently major revivals of A Little Night Music in London and West Side Story on Broadway.
Opera Australia added Sondheim to its repertoire with its successful production of Sweeney Todd in 2000 - as have several major opera companies around the world.
This production of the funny, sad but beautiful tale of love, fidelity and the passing of time is long-overdue.
In a quietly understated production, director Stuart Maunder and his creative team have given audiences a simple, yet romantic staging of one of Sondheim's most popular works.
Based on an Ingmar Bergman film, A Little Night Music premiered on Broadway in 1973, marking the start of a successful collaboration with Hugh Wheeler (Book) and also gave Sondheim his only chart-topper, Send in the Clowns.
This production combines some of music theatre's more accomplished performers - Nancye Hayes (Madame Armfeldt) and Robert Grubb (Fredrick Egerman) with the likes of Benjamin Rasheed and Andrew Moran from the world of opera.
All perform extremely well, handling Songheim's complicated lyrics with success. In particular, Grubb again shows that he is a versatile performer. Ben Lewis (Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm) and Kate Maree Hoolihan (Petra) are particularly strong.
Of course, all eyes will be on the leading lady Sigrid Thornton (Desiree Armfeldt), who gets to perform "the chart-topper". While her singing will not set the musical world alight (the role was written for an actress, not a singer), Sigrid manages to more than adequately perform the role, finding the humour and strength in the character.
But the real star here is undoubtedly the creative forces of Sondheim and Wheeler. As you listen to the cutting lyrics of Every Day a Little Death, or the hauntingly beautiful The Miller's Son (brilliantly performed by Kate Maree Hoolihan), you realise that there is never going to be an easy replacement for Sondheim's talent. Take this opportunity to enjoy his work.
Opera Australia presents
A Little Night Music
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Suggested by a Film by Ingmar Bergman
Venue: the Arts Centre, Melbourne
Dates/Times: 12-16; 19- 23; 26-30 May 2009 @ 7.30pm
Matinees: 16, 20, 23, 27 & 30 May @ 1pm; 24 May @ 3pm
Running time: approximately two hours and forty-minutes including one twenty minute interval