Love is one of those things that brings out the best – and worst – in people, as evidenced by the characters in “A Little Night Music,” which premiered Friday at Spokane Civic Theatre.
The Tony award-winning musical from Stephen Sondheim, which was inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s 1955 comedy “Smiles of a Summer Night,” follows the love triangles, and in some instances quadrangles, that surround actress Desiree Armfeldt (Abbey Crawford).
The musical opens with the Liesbeslieder Singers (Alex Barclay, Mike Reinken, Janean Jorgensen, Amy Dawson and Amanda Edwards), who appear throughout the show, acting as a Greek chorus of sorts.
Desiree’s mother Madame Armfeldt (wonderfully played by Jean Hardie), who is caring for her daughter Fredrika (Dacey Else), then enters, telling Fredrika that the summer night smiles three times: first on the young, then on the fools and finally on the old.
Then we meet lawyer Fredrik Egerman (Jim Swoboda), his much younger, somewhat naive wife Anne (Amber Fiedler) and his seminary student son Henrik (Mitch Heid), who is teased by Fredrik and Anne.
Fredrik takes Anne to see a play starring Desiree, a former lover. After suspecting there is something between Fredrik and Desiree, Anne becomes upset and demands to be taken home.
Fredrik obliges, but later sneaks out to visit Desiree in her dressing room, rekindling the spark they once had and throwing a wrench in her current relationship with the married dragoon Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Patrick McHenry-Kroetch), who interrupts the pair and takes an instant dislike to Fredrik.
Malcolm tells his wife, Countess Charlotte Malcolm (Stacia Bruner, great as the marriage-weary countess), about his encounter with Fredrik and Desiree. She, in turn, relays the meeting to a devastated Anne.
Meanwhile, Desiree asks her mother to invite Fredrik and his family over for a party, to which the elder Armfeldt reluctantly agrees.
Anne wants to turn down the invitation until Charlotte, whose husband has decided they’ll attend the party uninvited, reveals her plan to get Fredrik and Carl-Magnus away from Desiree once and for all.
In act two, after an explosive dinner party, the love triangles work themselves out into more manageable pairs, some in ways you’d expect, others, not so much, showing that in the end, simply stated, love wins.
A cast of talented singers, paired with Henry McNulty’s music direction, makes “A Little Night Music” a strong first showing for new artistic director Lenny Bart, who makes his Civic directing debut with the musical.
Crawford and Swoboda’s chemistry during the dressing room scene is a highlight of the show, as is when Fiedler and Bruner sing “Every Day a Little Death” and the trio of Fiedler, Heid and Swoboda singing “Now,” “Later” and “Soon” simultaneously near the top of the first act.
The cast easily recovered from a few dropped lines, and scene changes went off without a hitch. If “A Little Night Music” is any indication of what it will be like to have Bart at the helm, Spokane Civic Theatre is in very good hands.
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