A Little Night Music — Image courtesy Mu Performing Arts

A Little Night Music

Mu Performing Arts
Directed by Rick Shiomi

Over the past few years, Mu Performing Arts has attracted attention and praise for its succession of summer musicals such as Little Shop of Horrors and Into the Woods. This year, the company has taken on one of the more subtle and sophisticated works in the genre, A Little Night Music, in which Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler refashioned Ingmar Bergman’s classic comedy film Smiles of a Summer Night into, among other things, a poignant meditation on aging, an unflinching exploration of desire, and an extended love affair with triple meter. Helmed by emeritus artistic director Rick Shiomi, Mu’s production is an engaging and entertaining success.

A Little Night Music — Image courtesy Mu Performing ArtsA Little Night Music largely revolves around two main characters: Fredrik Egerman (Randy Reyes), a successful middle-aged lawyer, and his ex-lover Desiree Armfeldt (Sheena Janson), a famous stage actor. Fredrik, a widower, has recently married bubbly 18-year-old Anne (Suzie Juul), the daughter of a friend, but their marriage remains unconsummated due to Anne’s reluctance. Meanwhile, Desiree has been touring Sweden, entering into dalliances with married men like her current lover, the blowhard dragoon Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Alex Galick). Fredrik’s seminarian son Henrik (Wes Moun) and Carl-Magnus’s aggrieved wife Charlotte (Meghan Kreidler) round out the core cast. The show’s action is set into motion when Fredrik takes Anne to see one of Desiree’s plays, instigating a chain of jealousies and entanglements that work themselves out over the course of a summer night at Desiree’s mother’s country estate.

It takes skilled actors to pull of A Little Night Music‘s intricate dance of comedy and pathos, and Mu’s cast is fit for the task. Janson is a particular standout in the role of Desiree, giving a down-to-earth take on her character’s dark, world-weary wit and showing just the right amount of vulnerability, without taking things over the top, in the show’s one big hit, “Send in the Clowns.” Reyes is similarly approachable and charming as Fredrik, ensuring the audience’s emotional investment in the show’s central couple. Meanwhile, Kreidler and Galick are each hilarious in their own ways, and Juul and Moun appropriately epitomize the confusion and false certainty of youth.

A Little Night Music — Image courtesy Mu Performing ArtsOne of the most notable aspects of A Little Night Music is its idiosyncratic and difficult score, performed in Mu’s production by just six musicians under the direction of composer and pianist Jason Hansen. Sondheim’s intricate textures come through beautifully, and the actors — even those who are not necessarily natural singing talents — pull off the show’s many interweaving lines and syncopated verbal acrobatics with what seems like ease, though presumably it is anything but.

What comes through most in Mu’s production of A Little Night Music is compassion and respect for all of the show’s characters, including the many supporting characters with small but often pivotal roles. We see people at various stages of their lives, all of them foolish in their own ways and all of them motivated by impulses they cannot fully control or understand. We laugh at their follies, but we cannot laugh too cruelly, because they are not that different from us. Mu seems to understand this, and the result is a very humane rendition of a very humane musical. A Little Night Music is playing at Park Square Theatre in Saint Paul through Aug. 10.

Photos by Michal Daniel

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Eric Prindle

administers Bad Entertainment. He is also an attorney who leads a team of legal marketing copywriters at FindLaw. He is not Eric Prindle, the mixed martial arts fighter.