In the humble Stirling Community Theatre, the Hills Musical Company consistently stages quality productions with some of Adelaide’s finest experienced and new musical theatre performers.
Stephen Sondheim’s musical works require skilled musicians and singers who can cope with his complexities, demands and surprises, and for A Little Night Music the HMC has assembled a highly qualified cast that brings a professionalism to the community stage which savours every rich lyric, word and note of this entertaining production.
Mark DeLaine’s musical direction is superb: the orchestra is accurate, tight and perfectly balanced with the singers whose diction, clarity and understanding of the songs extract every possible moment of comedy and pathos from the show. Kate Anolak’s direction is stylish and flawless; she has found the lightness and depth in this musical.
A Little Night Music is set in Sweden around 1900, as indicated by the magnificent period costumes, especially the ladies’ evening gowns and men’s suits; it is an era when it was common practice for wealthy men to have mistresses, often with the wife’s knowledge. At the heart of the story is Fredrik Egerman (Matthew Randell), a 50-year-old lawyer, who has been married for 11 months to 18-year-old Anne (Karina Jay). However, the marriage has not been consummated.
In “Now”, Randell sings of the frustrations of a man of his age as he is desperate to make love to his young wife, but has to settle for an afternoon nap. Jay, a recent graduate from the Elder Conservatorium, lights up the stage and her soprano voice is a delight.
Egerman is able to relieve some sexual frustration by reacquainting himself with an old flame, Desiree Armfeldt (Bronwen James), an actress who finds herself performing in many towns and with numerous lovers. Henrik (Ian Andrew), the son of Egerman and a student at the seminary, is mocked by the family for his seriousness, solitude and prudish manner, but he is secretly in love with his stepmother. Desiree has another lover, Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Rod Schultz), and in act two all the characters find themselves at the home of Madame Armfeldt (Myfanwy May), Desiree’s mother.
Although it’s comical, and there are plenty of laughs, A Little Night Music never feels farcical; there is tenderness, pathos and poignancy, and liaisons that are very real.
How fortunate the HMC young performers are to act alongside the experienced Bronwen James, who held the audience spellbound with an emotionally charged and beautifully sung “Send in the Clowns”. It was equally impressive, after such a dramatic moment, that Rachel Rai, as Petra, the sexually experienced maid, was able to capture the audience with her energetic performance of “The Miller’s Son”. Myfanwy May, in a wheelchair, displayed the wisdom of her years and took the audience with her as she remembered her past lovers in “Liaisons”. Fiona DeLaine, as Countess Charlotte Malcolm, commanded the stage whenever she delivered her acerbic remarks about her husband, marriage or love.
The Hills Musical Company’s A Little Night Music is an excellent introduction for anyone who has never seen a Stephen Sondheim production, while for those who love good musical theatre or are Sondheim fans, it is a show not to be missed. The entire cast, including the small chorus that begins the production, the orchestra and the staging are first class.
Hills Musical Company is presenting A Little Night Music at Stirling Community Theatre until November 23.
Your support will help us continue the important work of InReview in publishing free professional journalism that celebrates, interrogates and amplifies arts and culture in South Australia.Donate Here