Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Sondheim's A Little Night Music enchants in a delectably sung and buoyantly told portrayal from Victorian Opera: Herald Sun Review

Published in Melbourne's Herald Sun in print, Tuesday 2nd July 2019.

With A Little Night Music, Victorian Opera’s latest plunge into the works of Stephen Sondheim is bound to bring joy to fans and newcomers of Broadway’s master of music’s marriage with text. Once again under Stuart Maunder’s astute direction, a story that swills the nitty gritty of human relationships is buoyantly told in a delectably sung and enchantingly portrayed drama.

The cast of Victorian Opera's A Little Night Music
In the manner of Oscar Wilde’s sharp witted humour, Sondheim’s inventive lyrics effortlessly reflect the sophistication that resides in Hugh Wheeler’s book. 

The action takes place in a privileged corner of Sweden at the dawn of the 20th century where expectations of propriety are instantly shattered. Middle-aged lawyer Fredrik has married Anne, a young woman 30 years his junior but, 11 months into the marriage, she remains a virgin. When he meets an old flame, the glamorous actress Desirée, what ensues is a centrifugally drawn cast of characters whose entanglement exposes everything from sexual tension, desire, frustration, jealously and repression. 

It’s all superbly illuminated in a creamily whisked up melodic affair written predominantly in waltz meter while along the way, hearts are broken, romance takes flight and love is renewed. 

Simon Gleeson as Fredrik and Elisa Colla as Anne
Musically, the ambience is perfectly paced in conductor Phoebe Briggs command, if at times the verve and swirl of the orchestration isn’t milked.

A revolve is deftly utilised to segue scenes as layers of gauze curtains waft in and out in Roger Kirk’s ornately slick stage design. Sumptuous and summery period costumes are captured with beauty under Trudy Dalgleish’s subdued lighting and within this dreamy picture, the large en-pointe ensemble are utterly radiant. 

Ali McGregor channels emotive truth and charm as the vivacious Desirée, singing the works standout musical number, “Send In the Clowns”, like it was written for her. Empathy and self-realisation rise through the cracks in Simon Gleeson’s suave and stylish Fredrik and Elisa Colla sparkles as a complex creature of coquettish and coy sorts as Anne.

Everyone is a flawless fit with Verity Hunt-Ballard’s trenchant Charlotte, Samuel Dundas as her husband’s dissolute Carl-Magnus and Alinta Chindzey’s pert Petra ahead of the excellence while a quintet of commentators elegantly navigate harmony and dance. 

A Little Night Music
Victorian Opera
Playhouse Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
Until 6th July, 2019


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