Wineke review: A little night music benefits from timing

Sometimes timing is everything.

When Madison Opera scheduled Stephen Sondheim's “A Little Night Music” for its midwinter production, it was taking a risk. The Sondheim piece is a Broadway musical, not a classic opera.

However, Madison was hit by an ice storm Thursday, the day before the opera opened. It experienced a snowstorm Sunday, the day of the second production. A week ago, it was 30 degrees below zero.

By the weekend I think most of us were ready for some semi-light entertainment.

And “A Little Night Music” hit the spot.

To begin with, the production features Sarah Day, a veteran Madison actor who has been a staple of American Players Theatre in Spring Green for more than three decades.

For years, Day often played the role of a somewhat ditsy or eccentric lightweight until, in recent years, she has excelled in deeply serious roles. In “A Little Night Music, she plays the more familiar role of a somewhat ditsy Madame Armfeldt, an elderly courtesan in a wheelchair who inspires her granddaughter Fredrika to watch for the summer night to smile.

It features Fredrik Engerman, a middle-aged lawyer married to an 18-year-old virgin, Anne, but who wanders astray when Desiree Armfeldt, daughter of you can guess who, comes to town, and rekindles an old flame.

Wonder how that little girl came up with the name “Fredrika?” Subtly is not the major strength of this play.

At any rate, Anne turns out to be in love with Fredrik's seminarian son, Henrik, who is more her age.

Well, the story goes on with all sorts of people who have all sorts of affairs, but in the end all's well that ends well.

The production was wonderfully staged. Rectangular frames of various sizes created the sense of walls, woods and barriers. The Madison Opera orchestra, led by artistic director John DeMain, played at the rear of the stage under a field of simulated stars that gave the weekend in the country theme a realistic impression.

The music was fun (the best known piece is “Send In The Clowns,” which Emily Pully – Desiree Armfeldt – sang beautifully) and which kept the somewhat lengthy play on course.

So, it was a good night. Not real opera, perhaps. But this is the same company that in 2014 staged “Dead Man Walking” so it doesn't have to prove its serious music credentials.


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