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A Little Night Music

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By Steven J. Smith Sondheim

Get whisked away to a weekend in the country with this Stephen Sondheim classic.

Legendary Broadway producer and director Hal Prince, who directed the original production of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, once described the musical as “whipped cream with knives.”

“Hal has a sense of audience that I sometimes lose when I’m writing,” Sondheim has said. “He wanted the darkness to peep through a whipped cream surface. He was more interested in the whipped cream and I was more interested in the knives.”

It’s an apt description of the show, considering the lush songs that delicately balance the tones of innocent love and dark regret experienced by its characters in this tale about the games men and women play in sex and love. Admirers of Mr. Sondheim’s acclaimed masterpiece can now find it on stage at the Manatee Performing Arts Center, where producing artistic director Rick Kerby has personally taken the helm. The musical plays Tuesdays through Sundays from October 26 to November 12.
“We have a history here with Sondheim,” Kerby said during a recent break in rehearsals. We’ve done Sweeney Todd, Assassins, Follies, Sunday in the Park with George, West Side Story and Gypsy. We try to put at least one Sondheim show in every season.”

Kerby added his audiences have come to enjoy Sondheim’s works as much as he does.“I’m working my way through his whole songbook,” he laughed. “With the recent revival of A Little Night Music on Broadway, the show came to my attention and I thought the time was right to do it. It suits our talent pool really well.”

Inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night, the original production opened back in 1973 and won Tony awards for Best Musical, Best Book and Best Original Score, among others. It tells the story of Fredrik Egerman (Rodd Dyer), married to 17-year-old Anne (Miranda Wolf), who has remained a virgin for the entire eleven months of their marriage. Feeling more than a little restless, Fredrik goes to see an old flame, the famous actress Desiree Armfeldt (Nancy Denton), now finally ready to settle down. She sets her sights on Fredrik, despite his marriage and her own married lover, Count Carl-Magnus (Brian Chunn). Desiree induces her mother (Deannie Laranaga) to invite the Egermans to her estate for a weekend in the country, but when Carl-Magnus and his wife Charlotte (Sarah Cassidy) also appear, things get complicated.

As delightful as this musical is, Kerby maintained it’s a real challenge to mount.
“First of all you must consider the music,” he said. “It is so laden with complex harmonies, rhythms and the way they overlap. Then there’s the technical side. It’s not a small show. I’ve had several meetings with our set designer already and we keep going back to the drawing board to come up with a concept that allows us to move quickly and efficiently from scene to scene.”

Kerby quickly added the challenges are all worth solving, because this musical — like most other Sondheim musicals — leaves its audience in a state of rapture.
“The music is what they’ll go away remembering,” he said. “It is so lush. It’s a score that stays with you. Of course it has the famous song “Send In The Clowns,” but that’s just one of many, many songs that are so memorable. I’m really excited to do this show. It’s been on my bucket list for a very long time.”
The Manatee Performing Arts Center is located at 502 3rd Ave. West in Bradenton. Ticket prices for A Little Night Music range from $27-$37.

For more information on the show or to purchase tickets, call the box office at 941-748-5875 or visit manateeperformingartscenter.com.

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