Review: “A Little Night Music” in Rohnert Park

Some Stephen Sondheim musicals are more recognizable and identifiable than others. Sweeney Todd? Murderous barber. Into the Woods? Fractured fairy tales. Assassins? Assassins. A Little Night Music? Ummm… clowns?

Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, now running at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park through Feb. 26, received a dozen Tony nominations in 1973 and won six including Best Musical. Most people know it for the Grammy-winning song “Send in the Clowns. A melancholy rumination on a life filled with regret, it became a standard for Frank Sinatra and a hit for Judy Collins.

Based on the 1955 Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night, the show is basically a sex comedy. Everybody either is having or wants to have sex with someone else in the show.

It’s the summer of 1900 somewhere in Sweden, and middle-aged lawyer Fredrik Egerman (Larry Williams) has been waiting for eleven months to consummate the marriage between him and his eighteen-year-old bride Anne (Brenna Sammon). Fredrick’s son Henrik (Samuel J. Gleason) tries to balance his studies for the ministry with his carnal desires. He seeks to relieve some of the pressure with dalliances with a house servant (Kaela Mariano), but that pressure is compounded by his feelings for his young step-mother.

A night at the theatre brings stage star Desiree Armfeldt (Daniela Innocenti Beem) back into Fredrik’s life and into her bed, much to the consternation of Desiree’s current fling, the insanely jealous but also-married Count Carl-Magnus Malcom (Michael C. Murdock). Things come to a head when everyone ends up spending a weekend at the estate of Desiree’s mother Madame Armfeldt (Eileen Morris).  

Members of the company of “A Little Night Music”

Director Sheri Lee Miller has gathered a cast of North Bay veterans and up-and-coming young talent and produced a very sweet, amusing, and melodious show. The veterans are veterans for a reason. Highlights from them include a terrific comedic performance by Taylor Bartolucci as the weary but had-it-up-to-here-with-her-wandering-husband Countess Charlotte Malcom. Beem delivers a wonderfully understated and incredibly poignant rendition of the show’s best-known tune.

The younger folks acquit themselves quite nicely as well. Gleason and Sammons bring earnestness to their characters, and Molly Belle Hart is a delight as Desiree’s young daughter Fredrika.

Musical director Janis Dunson Wilson expertly guides a 12-piece orchestra through the often-challenging Sondheim score. A quintet (Brandy Noveh, Stacy Rutz, Ariana LaMark-Arbitter, Michael Arbitter, and Sean O’Brien) does a very nice job musically bridging the scene changes.

By show’s end, everybody ends up in the arms of the right person. It would be great if this show ends up being seen by sizeable audiences. 

Send in the crowds.

‘A Little Night Music’ runs through Feb. 26 at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. Thurs-Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 2pm. $12 – $36. 707.588.3400. 

Photos by Jeff Thomas

This review originally appeared in an edited version in the North Bay Bohemian and Pacific Sun.

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