Stakes are as high as the tea in Watch This’ latest production, A Little Night Music.
By Owen James
Watch This have been presenting Sondheim musicals to Melbourne audiences for six years now, and their latest venture explores nostalgia and tangled romance among Sweden’s upper class of the early 1900’s. A Little Night Music first premiered on Broadway in 1973, and while written as a period piece, it is admittedly dated in its depiction of malleable women by today’s standards.
Although the plot moves slowly, by the end of act one we are hanging on the edge of our seats. Director Nicholas Cannon ensures that this web of romantic entanglement is as thrilling as a car chase. Michael Ralph’s choreography intertwines with Cannon’s direction and Sondheim’s intricate score with ease, highlighting the lyrics and never distracting.
Musical Director Daniele Buatti handles every operatic flourish, rapid-fire lyric and ensemble crescendo with perfection. While vocals are consistently clean and clear, we occasionally strain to hear the gorgeous six-piece orchestra, especially Buatti’s piano.
It is difficult to single out any performance in this perfectly balanced cast. Every actor is integral to the production, and Cannon (director) ensures no one melts into the background. Johanna Allen (Countess Charlotte Malcolm), Nelson Gardner (Henrik Egerman) and Anna Francesca Armenia (Petra) deliver delightfully comedic performances throughout the show, while also bringing moments of truly moving underlying emotion.
The highs and lows of romance and memory are explored by Nadine Garner (Desiree Armfeldt), John O’May (Fredrik Egerman), Carina Waye (Anne Egerman), Eddie Muliaumaseali’i (Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm) and Jackie Rees (Madame Armfeldt), who all deliver considered and desiring characters, each affected by secrecy and competitive courtship in their own way. We sympathise with the whole cast as they are unable to escape treasured memories of the past, but also unable to conquer eluded happiness. We are left asking ourselves if risking another heartbreak is worth the potential pleasure.
Grace O’Donnell-Clancy, Adrian Barila, Kate Louise Macfarlane, Greta Wilkinson, Kerrie Bolton and Raphael Wong complete the cast of fourteen, creating a perfect combination of voices and presence. Full praise must be given to this cast with no weak links.
The veils on the set by Christina Logan Bell poetically reflect the veil of superiority aristocracy brings. With the eye-catching costumes by Emily Collett and lighting by Rob Sowinski, the grandeur of these characters is visually accentuated.
Watch This’ A Little Night Music will charm and delight with highlight numbers from Nadine Garner (Send In The Clowns), Johanna Allen (Every Day A Little Death) and Anna Francesca Armenia (The Miller’s Sun). Rush out to see this rarely performed aristocratic epic, playing for a very short season until March 10th.
A Little Night Music plays at the National Theatre until 10 March. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 95254611.