Victorian Opera: A Little Night Music – Theatre Review

Although I am familiar with many of Sondheim’s works such as Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd and Company just to name a few, I was admittingly unfamiliar with A Little Night Music. I had heard the title of the musical before, but not much else. So, when I discovered Victorian Opera would be performing A Little Night Music as the fourth edition to their Sondheim series (having previously performed Sunday In The Park with George in 2013, Into the Woods in 2014 and Sweeney Todd in 2015), since I had enjoyed two of Victorian Opera’s Sondheim productions previously, I leaped at the opportunity to see this one, and I’m really glad that I did.

While classic musicals aren’t really my forte (I believe I am more of a modern musical kind of girl), I never thought I’d enjoy A Little Night Music so much. Set in the 1900’s, the musical follows the romantic lives of several couples who are all linked; one newlywed couple who have been married for 11 months and yet have never had sex, one long-term married couple where the husband is jealous of his mistress’ affairs, the mistress of said long-time married man who is in love with an old flame that is also already married, and a young man studying priesthood who vows celibacy yet is madly in love with a woman who is already spoken for. Sounds juicy, right? Well, it is! But for a such a dramatic concept, A Little Night Music is surprisingly mischievous, fun and witty.

In the Victorian Opera production, distinguished lawyer Fredrik Egerman is played by Simon Gleeson. Gleeson does an impressive performance portraying Fredrik as kind, feeling and lonely despite his circumstances. Although Fredrik is unfaithful to his wife, he is not seen as a villain, but a man trapped in a relationship where he is neither loved nor valued properly. While Gleeson in his performance of “Now” as Fredrik is warm and relatable, zoning out to his wife’s idle chatters and contemplating between wooing the mrs or taking a nap (and yes, he chose the nap), it is Gleeson’s on-stage chemistry pining after Ali McGregor’s character Desiree Armfeldt in which he truly shines. In Fredrik’s illogical but understandingly messy mission to spend time with the one he loves, Gleeson appears charmingly adorable, his character blinded by love and despite Fredrik’s infidelity, we can’t help but root for him. Together in the second act, Gleeson and McGregor’s characters reveal their bleeding hearts in the moving, bittersweet and iconic number “Send in the Clowns”.

Fellow cast members Samuel Dundas as Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm and Elisa Colla as Anne Egerman both are obstacle characters, preventing Fredrik being with the one he loves. Dundas and Colla have wonderful comic timing and are exceptionally funny; Dundas in “It Would Have Been Wonderful” as he and Gleeson’s Fredrik consider how easy life would have been if they weren’t attracted to Desiree, and Colla in “A Weekend in the Country” where she is accompanied by Verity Hunt-Ballard’s cold and dry Countess Charlotte Malcolm, cousin to Colla’s character Anne. When Countess Charlotte and Anne both plot mischief together, you can’t help but laugh at their exchanges and be excited for their brewing chaos.

Love-lorn and probably the most serious character in the production is Henrik Egerman played by Mat Verevis who is torn between his beliefs, his heart and is completely miserable. With Henrik being only a year older than his now stepmother Anne, Verevis does a moving rendition of “Later” where he expresses his character’s frustrations of being ignored. I honestly loved Verevis’ portrayal of Henrik and was awestruck by his vocal talent.

Australian theatre legend, Nancy Hayes as Desiree‘s mother Madame Armfeldt is mostly accompanied with grand daughter Fredrika played by Sophia Wasley, and together appear to be the only ones in the narrative not batty with love troubles (or batty in general), seen more as spectators to the chaos when it come to visit their home.

But it is Alinta Chidzey’s outstanding performance as Anne’s maidservant Petra that truly won me over with her passionate portrayal of a grounded woman who acknowledges her dreams, but at the same time vows to cease whatever opportunity passes her by in “The Miller’s Son”. Petra is the kind of character that could have her very own musical, and although in A Little Night Music she is a small character, she is ever the important one by providing another perspective into the turmoils of love and marriage.

In a conclusion that left me joyful and extremely satisfied, Victorian Opera’s A Little Night Music directed by Stuart Maunder is cheekily charming and by far the best musical production that I have seen all year. With a solid talented cast and impressive costumes by Roger Kirk to boot, you would be a fool to miss this musical. Admittedly, I hadn’t known much about A Little Night Music prior to seeing this production, but I am ever so grateful that Victorian Opera have brought this hilarious show to Melbourne. I could not stop laughing and smiling during the performance, and was filled will much happiness long after I left the theatre. Melbourne, although we are spoilt for theatre, we are honestly so lucky to have Victorian Opera. Let’s hope this isn’t the last musical that they do.

Victorian Opera’s A Little Night Music is currently playing at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Playhouse Theatre until July 6th.
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Photography by Jeff Bubsy.

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