Sondheim’s Music Ties Together Convoluted Relationships in Lush 'A Little Night Music'

There’s a lot of hanky-panky going on in this lush Stephen Sondheim musical, with an elegant and witty book by Hugh Wheeler. Set in Sweden around the turn of the 20th century, it’s surprising that all these cool Nordic types are so hot to trot given the perpetual summer sun at this elevated latitude.

The talented Porthouse cast, under the direction of Sean T. Morrissey, gives this production a glossy texture that serves the material well. This includes an appearance by Terri J. Kent, producing artistic director of Porthouse, in the linchpin role of Desiree Armfeldt.

Suffice to say that pretty much every character in this upper-class Scandinavian community is eager for romance and the boffing that goes along with it. They’re all so focused on fitting their naughty parts into each other, it eventually feels like a horny Ikea assembly party, with lots of singing.

Here are the convoluted relationships in a big, messy nutshell: The older Fredrik is married to the 17-year-old virgin Anne, who is still a virgin after 11 months of marriage, so blue-balled Fredrik visits Desiree, his former lover who offers him a pity boink. Frederick’s uptight son Henrik falls in love with his teenage step-mom while Anne herself is being schooled by her maid Petra, who’s been on Henrik’s tail, and then Desiree’s current man-toy Count Carl-Magnus gets wind of the relationship between Desiree and Fredrik while the Count’s snarky wife Charlotte prods Anne to confront her hubby and Petra shares some time with the servant Frid and launches into her own fantasy.

As the night repeatedly smiles on these folks, love finds a way. It’s all overseen by Desiree’s aged mother, Madame Armfeldt, who mostly sneers at the goings-on from her wheelchair.

Clear now? Of course not, and it really doesn’t matter that this is all a bit confusing. That’s because Sondheim’s glorious music is there to lubricate the proceedings, including the popular “Send in the Clowns.” Even if it takes you a while to plug into all the randy stuff, swathed in yards of luxe period costumes designed by S.Q. Campbell, it’s a journey you should be happy to take.

Standouts in the cast include Fabio Polanco, who struts his powerful vocal wares as Fredrik, a nubile Lucy Anders as Anne, and Kent in an often-affecting turn as Desiree. Shamara Cost is earthy as Petra and Jim Weaver postures pompously as the Count. Most of the laughs come from Amy Fritsche, whose Charlotte is a constant snippy delight.

Indeed, it’s a strong production from first to last, including the quintet that begins each of the two acts on a wave of Greek chorus-style singing, accompanied by conductor Jonathan Swoboda’s small but excellent string orchestra.

A Little Night Music
Through June 27 at Porthouse Theatre, Blossom Music Center campus, 1145 W. Steels Corners Road, Cuyahoga Falls, 330-672-3884.

About The Author

Christine Howey

Christine Howey has been reviewing theater since 1997, first at Cleveland Free Times and then for other publications including City Pages in Minneapolis, MN and The Plain Dealer. Her blog, Rave and Pan, also features her play reviews. Christine is a former stage actor and director, primarily at Dobama Theatre...
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