"An evening at the Bridewell"
by Matthew Partridge for remotegoat on 25/11/11

Stephen Sondheim is a controversial composer. Although he has had tremendous professional success, and even won the accolade last year of a BBC Prom marking his eightieth birthday, he has been criticised for moving musicals in the direction of minimalism and neuroticism. Indeed, one detractor called him "the man who killed Broadway". However, as SEDOS' has demonstrated in this run of A Little Night Music, Sondheim has created works that can appeal to those who prefer Rogers and Hammerstein.

Loosely based on Ingmar Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night, A Little Night Music is a bubbly comedy set in early twentieth century Sweden. Lawyer Fredrik Egerman has been married to the eighteen-year old Anne for nearly a year, but has not yet consummated the marriage. However, a chance meeting with his former flame Desiree, leads to various twists and turns which culminate in a farcical weekend at the estate of Desiree's wealthy mother Madame Armfeldt.

The strongest performances came from the two female leads Karen Braganza and Paula Mount, who grabbed the audience's attention. Braganza ably portrayed the childlike and innocent nature of Anne without overdoing it, making the relationship between her and her husband comic rather than creepy. From the first moment we saw her playing the lead role in the play-within-a-play that starts the chain of events, Paula Mount dominated the stage as the man-eating Desiree.

Joyce Lorinstein (Madame Armfeldt) and Andrew Overin (Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm) also make the most of their parts, while Lauren Mole won a lot of applause for her rendition of "The Miller's Son". The rest of the cast were also strong, with Jason Thomas (Fredrik Egerman) ably supporting Bragnza and Mount. Matt Hudson should also be commended for his work on the set.

Of course, some aspects of the production can be criticised. Although the Bridewell is bigger than most fringe theatres the decision to use microphones to amplify the singing and dialogue was unnecessary. "A Weekend in the Country", one of the key numbers of the musical, and one which concludes the first half, started out hesitantly, only hitting its stride halfway through. The directorial decision to have Jason Thomas and Paula Mount perform "Send in the Clowns" as a song, rather than as an orchestrated spoken word piece, robbed the moment of some of its pathos.

However, these criticisms cannot obscure the fact that the production was masterful in both dramatic and auditory terms. Co-Directors Dawn Harrison-Wallace and Roger Harwood, as well as Musical Director David Griffiths and AD Mark Londesborough, should be proud of their achievement.

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