Ye Olde Rose And Crown Theatre, London
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Directed by Tim McArthur
A Little Night Music is up there as one of the great Sondheim musicals and it’s a nobly ambitious show that Aaron Clingham’s All Star Productions mount at Walthamstow’s Rose and Crown Theatre. Tim McArthur directs a cast of sixteen who cavort their way through the musical rom-com, itself a take on the seminal Ingmar Bergman classic, Smiles Of A Summer Night and there are some gems amongst his company.
Leading the troupe is Sarah Waddell as Desiree Armfeldt and Alexander McMorran as her enamoured and beloved Frederik Egerman. Waddell possesses the gorgeous MILFish charm that her role demands – but struggles to make an impact when she sings. If she were to tackle some of the (potentially hilarious) funny lines of You Must Meet My Wife without a mouthful of food it would immeasurably boost the lyrics’ comedy. – and McMorran (who appears a tad too young to convince in the role) offers charm but also lacks vocal presence. Every Sondheim lyric demands attention and whilst Egerman is of course a reserved man by character, the actor playing him needs a measured flamboyance to make the lawyer’s cleverly created bumbling integrity truly come across to the audience
Nonetheless, the treats amongst the cast make this production a worthwhile venture. Samuel Baker’s Count Carl-Magnus is famously a cardboard (or should that be tin?) cut out role, every inch a cliched stereotype, but the beautifully booted Baker relishes the regimented dragoon and makes the part his own. He is only surpassed by the ever excellent Jamie Birkett as his embittered Countess. Birkett nails the tragi-comedy of her character, whilst her masterful Every Day A Little Death proves the evening’s heartbreaker.
Elsewhere Joshua Considine’s cello-playing Henrik is deliciously angst-ridden, whilst Jodie Beth Meyer’s lusty Petra positively steals the second half (which should rightfully have belonged to Desiree’s Send In The Clowns) with a passionate The Millers Son.
Hard on the heels of her recent outing as Mary Phagan in Parade in Fulham, the gamine Kerry Loosemore reprises her cute 14yo girl – is Loosemore a future Eponine perhaps? – whilst another Southern belle from that Parade, Lily De-La-Haye shines out amongst the (otherwise generally good) Liebeslieder Singers.
Flaws notwithstanding, there’s more than enough here to entertain as Clingham’s four-piece band make a valiant fist of Sondheim’s demanding orchestrations. Just as the summer night smiles on the young, the old and the foolish, so too does this show smile on Walthamstow, making for a delightful night out.
Runs until 31st October