‘A Little Night’ WUsic

Colton Goeffert,Washburn Review

March 9 and 10 Washburn University Opera Studio put on two

separate presentations of “A Little Night Music”, a play adapted from the

book “Smiles of a Summer Night” with music and lyrics penned by Stephen

Sondheim. The play followed the lives of several couples and the romance

between them. The events took place in 1900’s Switzerland.

The play began with a rousing musical number from the Quintet (Jacob

Stone, Kathryn Meehan, Jacqueline Woodruff, Tyler Woodworth, and Brianne

Stewart) a group of five actors who act as a sort of Greek choir, narrating

and progressing the story. The audience was then presented with an old woman in a wheelchair playing solitaire, while she and her granddaughter discuss the smiles of life. The grandmother, Madame Armfeldt (Jeanne Averill),explains to Fredrika (Skyler Dykes), the granddaughter that the summer night smiles three times: first on the young, second on fools, and third on the old. Fredrika vows to see these smiles.

After a brief scene transition we are greeted by middle-aged Fredrik Egerman (Lee Snook), a successful lawyer who recently married an 18-year-

old trophy wife, Anne (Anna Tauge), who is a young girl in love with Fredrik.

The two have been married for eleven months, yet Anne is still a virgin, not

yet feeling comfortable with Fredrik. As Fredrik bemoans this situation,

we’re introduced to his son, Hendrik Egerman (Zachary Cope) who is in the

incredibly awkward situation of being a year older than his stepmother. As

Hendrik studies to be a priest, he is incessantly teased by not only his

father and stepmother, but also their maid Petra, (Jocelyn Price). Henrik

starts singing a song about not being taken seriously, and is later joined by

his father and stepmother, all singing their own tunes which mix beautifully.

That night, Fredrik and Anne head out to see a play starring the

lovely Desiree Armfeldt, though they leave early as Desiree, the lead lady,

was a former lover of Fredrik’s and the two kept sharing “amorous glances”,

making Anne uncomfortable. After Anne has gone to sleep however, Fredrik

sneaks out to have a little reunion with Desiree. As the two rekindle their

affections, Desiree reveals that she is seeing a married dragoon, and that

Fredrika and Madame Armfeldt are her daughter and mother, respectively.

After Fredrik accidentally reveals he’s been “inactive” for 11 months, Desiree

leads Fredrik off to the bedroom. After a song from Madame Armfeldt we find

Desiree’s dragoon, Count Carl-Magnus Malcom has arrived at Desiree’s place.

Desiree and Fredrik come up with a story to explain their disheveled

appearance, which Carl-Magnus appears to believe, but still regards them with suspicion.

Magnus returns to his domicile and discusses the events of the night

with his wife, Charlotte who realizes she knows Anne. Charlotte decides to

pay Anne a visit, and they talk of their respective husbands relations with

Desiree. Meanwhile, Desiree asks Madame Armfeldt to host a party for Fredrik, Anne, and Henrik. She complies and sends the invitation. Upon receiving the invite, Anne doesn’t want to go, but Charlotte convinces her, and then reports the news of the party to her husband who decides he will crash the party as party and everyone joins in the big song “Weekend in the Country”.

After a fifteen minute intermission the show resumed with everyone in

the midst of celebrating, only for Magnus to inevitably arrive and crash the

party. Feeling spurned by Carl-Magnus, Charlotte devises a plan to seduce

Fredrik and trigger her husband’s jealous side. She then reveals this plan

to Anne. Meanwhile, Henrik has a conversation with Fredrika and ends up

admitting he’s in love with Anne and has been for some time. Then Fredrick

and Carl-Magnus join each other in a duet mourning that Desiree is so lovely, so perfect, that other would never leave her.

The scene fades and then it’s dinnertime, as both Charlotte and

Desiree lay the moves on Fredrik, Carl-Magnus positively bristles with

outrage. Finally, Hendrik has had enough and calls them all out on their amorality. They laugh him out of the room, brushing him off. As the rest of the group laughs Fredrika tells Anne about Hendrik’s love for her, and the two rush off to look for him.

After dinner, Fredrik and Desiree converse about their love, Fredrik

admitting he still loves her, but only as a dream. With this upsetting news,

Desiree reflects on her life to the tune of “Send in the Clowns,” the song

that made this opera famous.

Anne finds Henrik on the edge of a lake, after attempting to drown

himself. Here he professes his love for her. She reciprocates his feelings,

and the embrace, kissing before descending into that most physical of all

romantic acts, before leaving to make their own life.

Later, Fredrik and Charlotte meet, and she reveals to him that her

interest in him was all a charade. After realizing that both Anne and

Charlotte have no interest in him, and that he and Desiree could never be,

Fredrik begins to weep as Charlotte consoles him. Meanwhile, Desiree tells

Carl-Magnus, that it’s over, but before he can react he spots Charlotte and

Fredrik together. Believing him to have made a move on his woman, Carl-Magnus challenges Fredrik to a game of Russian Roulette. Feeling depressed, Fredrick accepts, and is the first to get the bullet, though it only grazes his ear.

As Charlotte and Carl-Magnus leave together, Fredrick and Desiree join

each other for a reprise of “Send in the Clowns”. The music swells as the two embrace and kiss. They make plans to vacation together, their love renewed.

Madame Armfeldt explains to Fredrika that two smiles of the night,

Henrik and Anne, the young, and Desiree and Fredrik, the fools have happened already. As the two wait for the “third smile”, on the old, the elder passes away peacefully.

Overall, the play is a treat, the music is catchy, the lines both

emotional and witty, and the actors were fabulous. My one complaint is that

occasionally, the Washburn Symphony Orchestra would overpower the singers, specifically the Quintet. It was a nuisance, but it didn’t detract that much.

“I really like that everyone ended up with someone in the end,” said Scott Tucker, sophomore industrial technology major.

I can agree with that sentiment.

The fact that Madame Armfeldt passed away in the end made it somewhat melancholy, but that only adds to the emotion. On the whole “A Little Night Music” was fantastic.