You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

A Little Night Music

Infidelity never goes out of vogue, whether it's New York governors or Swedish aristocrats -- as in Ingmar Bergman's 1955 film, "Smiles of a Summer Night," or Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's stage adaptation, "A Little Night Music."

Madame Armfeldt - Polly Bergen Fredrika Armfeldt - Mattie Hawkinson Frid - Jonathan C. Kaplan Anne Egerman - Julia Osborne Henrik Egerman - Josh Young Fredrik Egerman - Stephen Bogardus Petra - Sarah Uriarte Berry Desiree Armfeldt - Barbara Walsh Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm - Maxwell Caulfield Countess Charlotte Malcolm - Kate Baldwin

Infidelity never goes out of vogue, whether it’s New York governors or Swedish aristocrats — as in Ingmar Bergman’s 1955 film, “Smiles of a Summer Night,” or Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s stage adaptation, “A Little Night Music.” The perpetually tuneful 1973 show is now receiving a stylishly austere revival at Baltimore’s Center Stage.

A seasoned cast under director Mark Lamos handles the assorted adulterous couplings with ease, bringing out the comic melodrama inherent in all that marital stress. This is achieved with clockwork precision, but the downside of that is the genuine emotions in Sondheim’s music and lyrics and Wheeler’s book too often are played for laughs at the expense of pathos.

This production’s moments of heartfelt feeling serve as reminders of the sentiment missing in this smartly conceived and smoothly paced package.

At the emotional end of the spectrum, the young, idealistic and quasi-suicidal seminary student Henrik Egerman is potentially a foolish character, but Josh Young brings such sincerity to his melancholic number, “Later,” that more serious undertones rise to the surface.

Henrik fears he’s in love with his 18-year-old stepmother, Anne (Julia Osborne), which makes him all the more afraid of his overbearing father, Fredrik (Stephen Bogardus). Osborne and Bogardus give fine performances, but they skim the comic surface, and Osborne’s singing tends to the shrill when it should be sweet.

The tuner’s messy amorous complications include Fredrik reigniting an affair with an old lover, self-dramatizing actress Desiree Armfeldt (Barbara Walsh), proving that middle-aged lovers can be every bit as ardent and foolish as the younger crowd.

Walsh (Joanne in the recent Broadway “Company” revival) does a good job with the musical’s signature tune, “Send in the Clowns,” although her straightforward delivery fails to milk the song for all its sentimental worth.

The talented cast includes Polly Bergen speaking with lived-in authority as Desiree’s elderly mother, Madame Armfeldt; Bergen holds her own with the memory of the original Broadway star Hermione Gingold.

Maxwell Caulfield is hilarious as Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm, a stuffed shirt who might as well be a tin soldier, and Mattie Hawkinson, Jonathan C. Kaplan, Sarah Uriarte Berry and Kate Baldwin all give assured perfs.

The actors’ diction is crisp in a witty show where clarity of the lyrics really matters, with much of the credit due to music director/arranger Wayne Barker and his musicians.

The relatively spare set by Riccardo Hernandez is a mixed blessing. Its reliance on the theater’s backing brick wall, several chandeliers, a few pieces of period furniture, a couple of Old Master-style erotic paintings, and empty gilded picture frames conveys the Swedish country house setting, but it’s an emotionally cool place.

There’s no lush birch forest in which to reflect. Maybe the near-empty, non-lyrical set explains why the generally animated acting sometimes seems more athletic than contemplative.

Other tech credits are lovely, including Chase Brock’s fluid choreography, Candice Donnelly’s black-and-white costumes for aristocrats and servants alike, and Robert Wierzel’s sensitive lighting for Sondheim’s beautiful night music.

Popular on Variety

A Little Night Music

Center Stage, Baltimore; 541 seats; $65 top

Production: A Center Stage presentation of a musical in two acts with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Hugh Wheeler. Directed by Mark Lamos. Music director and arranger, Wayne Barker. Choreography, Chase Brock.

Creative: Set, Riccardo Hernandez; costumes, Candice Donnelly; lighting, Robert Wierzel; sound, Scott Stauffer; dramaturg, Gavin Witt; assistant director, Ian Belknap; assistant choreographer, Ashley Eichbauer; fight direction, J. Allen Suddeth; production stage manager, Craig A. Horness. Opened, reviewed March 19, 2008. Running time: 2 HOURS, 25 MIN.

Cast: Madame Armfeldt - Polly Bergen Fredrika Armfeldt - Mattie Hawkinson Frid - Jonathan C. Kaplan Anne Egerman - Julia Osborne Henrik Egerman - Josh Young Fredrik Egerman - Stephen Bogardus Petra - Sarah Uriarte Berry Desiree Armfeldt - Barbara Walsh Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm - Maxwell Caulfield Countess Charlotte Malcolm - Kate BaldwinWith: Whit Baldwin, Jacque Carnahan, Amy Justman, Alison Mahoney, Joe Paparella.

More Legit

  • Stephen Moore

    Stephen Moore, 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' Android, 'Doctor Who' Actor, Dies at 81

    Stephen Moore, best known for his roles as the paranoid android Marvin in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” radio series and the Silurian Eldane in “Doctor Who,” has died. He was 81. “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” producer Dirk Maggs confirmed Moore’s death Sturday on Twitter, writing, “Our dear friend Stephen Moore has [...]

  • Ben Platt Variety Power of New

    Ben Platt on Coming Out and the Queerness of 'The Politician'

    Ben Platt never imagined he would one day star in a series like “The Politician.” “I didn’t think I could be a star of a show in general starting out. I think I was like, ‘I’ll do Broadway. I can be on stage and I can play Jimmy in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and Nathan Detroit [...]

  • Michael Jackson in concert in Milton

    Michael Jackson Musical to Open on Broadway in Summer 2020

    “MJ,” a musical based on the life and career of Michael Jackson, will open on Broadway in summer 2020. Preview performances will start July 6 before its official debut on Aug. 13. The stage show, which will include songs like “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” and “Smooth Criminal,” was originally [...]

  • The Wrong Man review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Wrong Man'

    Credit songwriter Ross Golan for the seamless quality of “The Wrong Man,” his mesmerizing musical about a good man who deserves a good life but seems to attract nothing but bad luck. The show’s inventive book, music, and lyrics were all penned by this multi-hyphenate talent who was named 2016 BMI Pop Songwriter of the [...]

  • Kristin Chenoweth Broadway

    Listen: Kristin Chenoweth Wants to Write a Broadway Musical

    Kristin Chenoweth doesn’t just want to star in Broadway musicals. She’s thinking about writing one, too. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “I think about it a lot,” Chenoweth said on the latest episode of “Stagecraft,” Variety‘s theater podcast. “I want someone to collaborate with me on a story I have, and it would be [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content