Monday, July 29, 2013

Sondheim's A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC Lights Up Prairie Fire

How long have we gone in Bloomington-Normal without a Sondheim show on one of our stages? Too long.

Prairie Fire Theatre is stepping in to fill that need with a new production of A Little Night Music, the waltzing, romantic and cynical musical adaptation of Ingmar Bergman's enchanting 1955 film Smiles of a Summer Night. Prairie Fire's Night Music opens August 2 and runs through August 11.

In both the original Swedish film and the Sondheim/Wheeler stage musical, the story revolves around an actress named Desiree Armfeldt and her romantic life. Desiree is trying to deal with the sudden reappearance of her ex-lover, a lawyer named Fredrik Egerman, who has a much younger wife, virginal Anne, as well fend off her current lover, a military man named Carl-Magnus, who is more than a bit of a hothead. Adding complications to this love triangle -- or square, or possibly hexagon -- are a few extra folks like Fredrik's son and Carl-Magnus's wife.

In A Little Night Music, Desiree Armfeldt gets one of Sondheim's most famous, most beautiful songs -- "Send in the Clowns" -- as this story, of mismatched lovers taking a trip to the country during an endless summer night, unwinds. "Send in the Clowns" may have gotten most of the press, but the rest of Sondheim's score is equally wonderful, regretful, sweet and wry, as Desiree sings about her "Glamorous Life," her mother reminisces about her own "Liaisons," Carl-Magnus's unhappy wife Charlotte duets with Anne on "Every Day a Little Death," the company prepares for "A Weekend in the Country," and Fredrik, Anne and Fredrik's son Henrik lament whether "Now," "Later," or "Soon" is the right time to make a move.

For Prairie Fire Theatre, this "musical tapestry of comedy, affairs of the heart, and bittersweet romance" is directed by Rhys Lovell, with Cristen Susong as the delightful Desiree, Caroline McKinzie as her daughter, and Uretta Lovell as her mother, the wise and wily Madame Armfeldt who is watching out for the evening sky to "smile." Joe Penrod will play lawyer Egerman, Emily Honzel takes the role of his wife Anne, and Sean Leeds rounds out the Egerman family as his gloomy son Henrik. Bob Mangialardi will portray the martinet Count Carl-Magnus, with Lyndsay Byers as his wife Charlotte.

A Little Night Music will be performed at the Illinois Wesleyan University Memorial Center on August 2, 3 and 4 and 9, 10 and 11, with Friday and Saturday shows at 7:30 pm and Sunday matinees at 2:30 pm. You can see the entire cast list here, along with a link to buy tickets. If you prefer to reserve by phone, you can dial 309-824-3047 for reservations.


  1. You folks seem to get this constant flow of good theater there. I'm envious!

  2. Cristen Susong and Joe Penrod both have beautiful voices and they will be terrific, so that's a plus. Really looking forward to this. The last thing I heard Cristen sing in was The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and it's been awhile. She's been doing straight dramatic roles.

    Did you notice ALM was also in the news today for the release of the soundtrack (and, yes, I do mean soundtrack) from the 1978 movie version of the show? I didn't notice in 1978, but it's set up so that Frederick (Len Cariou) has a wife (Lesley Anne Down) who very much resembles a young version of his Desiree (Elizabeth Taylor). I guess that Frederick had a type! At least we know what he was doing with Anne.

  3. I hadn't thought of that, but you're quite right! And both Ms. Taylor and Ms. Down were frequently mentioned (in their respective eras) as the most beautiful woman onscreen.

    And all the women whose voices were dubbed (Elizabeth Taylor most of the time, Lesley-Anne Down, the child Chloe Franks) were dubbed by the same person! That's so weird. As least the great Diana Rigg got to sing for herself.

    I'm one of the relative few who saw this movie on its first release (well, after it slunk into the college towns, months later). Not a major smash.

  4. I also saw it when it was released in 1978. I was not yet a Sondheim fan and the only reason we went was because it was based on SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT, which came up in a Swedish film class either I was taking or Scott was taking. It must've been Scott's class. But we definitely saw it and thought Diana Rigg was terrific and Elizabeth Taylor was... Not. Little did I know that Charlotte is always a hit, whether she is Diana Rigg or not. But Rigg was great.