A Little Night Music

Rebecca Varidel
19th Oct 2023

A Little Night Music is the Stephen Sondheim romantic musical about "how unlikely likely is". To write that the 1973 multi Tony Award winning A Little Night Music is a classic is like writing that water is wet. The rhythmic undulating pace of the music hugs the tapestry of the rich storyline, which finishes, for those that are new to this complicated weekend in the country, with an unexpected ending (endings).

Specialist musical theatre company Hayes Theatre in Potts Point Sydney not only has the talent for this revival production but provides the intimate space which allows us to live within the interwoven tale of these characters.

Equal first place goes to the set design (Jeremy Allen) with its three layered perspective and costumes (Angela Doherty) which are both a glorious fit for the era, the story, this theatre. Both provide the foundations for the performers, and the live orchestra, to deliver a night of splendid entertainment. Sometimes endearing. Often humourous. Always enjoyable.

For this Hayes Theatre Co. season, we are graced by the first lady of Australian musical theatre, namesake of this theatre, and Potts Point local Nancye Hayes AM in the role of Madame Armfeldt. No words. Except perfection. Carriage even in a wheelchair. Presence with an inbuilt illumination. Every word, every gesture, every note. Her Liasons is supreme. Everything. Including being humbly honoured to witness her performance.

This Hayes production of A Little Night Music is such a well cast show. Diverse messy characters, with each performer presenting an outstanding portrayal.

Blazey Best showed us her best hussy. The unorthodox Desiree Armfeldt is a forthright and powerful stage luminary, albeit fading. Best's challenging job in the pinnacle role is to also present us with the most well known song of this show. Send In The Clowns - a theatrical term for when a show isn't going well, tell jokes - was written by Sondheim especially for the legendary Glynis Johns during the original Broadway rehearsals. And Blazey Best delivers the original stage intention, with the song spoken and acted. It's stumpier than the later pop song version, first covered by Judy Collins, then many others. And to be honest, at first it bristled me, yet on reflection I find Best's whole performance, including this song, astounding. Do not be fooled, Desiree is a challenging acting role, and Blazey Best mastered it.

I found great joy in the work of Melanie Bird as Anne Egerman. She took this character from what is often annoying, superficial and ditzy, and added something more human, real and tangible. It was a fine line to work, but the very talented Bird pulled this off amazingly.

Also outstanding was young performing veteran Pamela Papacosta who captured the energy and excitement of the wise beyond her years Frederika Armfeldt. I've thoroughly enjoyed the stage performances of Jeremy Campese in every role I've seen him in (including Sweeney Todd and Godspell) - and this opening night was no exception. His confused Henrik Egerman cries out to break out of his confines with electric agitation. And I was really taken by Erin Clare's stoic calculations as Countess Charlotte Malcolm.

But like I wrote before, everybody was well cast. Everybody performed their respective characters brilliantly: Joshua Robson as Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm, Leon Ford as Fredrik Egerman, et al.

"You need funny, smart people to play funny, smart people, and from the first moment of rehearsal the cast we've assembled made me giddy" says Dean Bryant in his director's note.

Dean Bryant has done a marvellous job in directing the cast and creatives in this joyous waltz of life. And I mean, the lyrics and music are by Stephen Sondheim. Musical theatre lovers, what more is there to say!


Photos by John McCrae