Friday, 10 April 2009

A Little Night Music - Garrick Theatre

A Little Night Music by Stephen Sondhiem
Book: Hugh Wheeler
Director: Trevor Nunn
Musical Director: Tom Murray
Choreographer: Lynne Page
Reviewer: Leon Trayman

Sondheim asks, “Where is passion in the art; where’s craft?”. Well both can certainly be found in abundance in this production of The Menier Chocolate Factory’s West End transfer of A Little Night Music.

Having previously seen this production at the Menier, I found that it has lost none of its intimacy and charm, and Trevor Nunn’s simple and clear direction, coupled with David Farley’s adaptable and highly effective design produce a thoroughly enjoyable evening’s entertainment. The stage is beautifully transformed from living room, to bedroom, apartment to digs, country chateau to Swedish woodland. Lynne Page’s waltzing choreography whirls and swirls around the stage seducing the audience and making the most of a fantastic overture.

I feel I must make a special note of the sheer brilliance of Hannah Waddingham; in my opinion our greatest musical theatre leading lady. She lights up the stage with her captivating smile, whilst delicately placing the melancholic nuances of ‘Send in the Clowns’ that has the audience reaching for the tissues. Her comic timing is also impeccable, but one assumes that it has to be when sharing the stage with the awesome Maureen Lipman, whose performance is breathtakingly funny, nuanced, honest and layered with the regrets of a life well lived.
Kelly Price is a wonderful Countess and makes mincemeat of Jessie Buckley (Anne Egerman) during their duet (Every Day a Little Death) towards the end of act one. Buckley has a very nice voice, but lacks the acting expertise so beautifully displayed by the rest of this ensemble cast. Her tuning is flat on occasion and she plays the eighteen year old Anne like a petulant and stupid twelve year old. Ditsy and naive, is not the same as stupid…

Alexander Hanson and Gabriel Vick are excellently cast as father and son respectively and both turn out fine performances.

The supporting cast are great. Especially Kaisa Hammarlund is spectacular as Petra and performs a spine-tingling version of ‘The Miller’s Son’. Nicola Sloane’s supporting role as Mrs Segstrom, deserves a special mention as she is clearly a hugely generous performer, not to mention a stunning soprano.

A Little Night Music at the Garrick Theatre, Charing Cross Road, is the perfect introduction to Sondheim for the uninitiated; as well as those diehard fanatics amongst us. As one would expect, Sondheim’s quick, witty and clever lyrics accompanied by stunning music provide a pseudo-operatic musical treat. The costumes are exquisite and for two and a half hours you are transported away to Sweden at the turn of the last century. If you are a fan of Ibsen, Chekhov or Gorky and have yet to be convinced of the virtues of west end musical theatre this is the one for you.

Where is craft? Just watch Waddingham and Lipman for a veritable masterclass!
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