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Victorian Opera: An Enchanting Little Night

by Julie Houghton
Well-dressed woman and man sitting and looking at each other

Victorian Opera’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music is a winner.

While I have seen other productions of this musical, it has never been executed as well as it is here by director Stuart Maunder and music director Phoebe Briggs.  The show weaves a magic spell over its audience and charms from start to finish.

It also mixes a wealth of experienced stars with young emerging talent, so there is an interesting mix of voices, with some at the top of their game and others still on their journey to maturity, which gives freshness to the production.

From the opening scene we are fascinated by Sondheim’s story of romantic liaisons that could more properly be called misalliances, and we follow on their journey to a final curtain when the right people seem to be matched, in a satisfying resolution.  It’s a complex story that would rival some of television’s popular soap operas, but Sondheim’s treatment of the story elevates it to fine drama with moments of comedy –and, of course, wonderful Sondheim music.

Having the pleasure of witnessing veteran Australian music theatre star Nancye Hayes reprise her role as Madame Armfeldt is a treat, and there is a beautiful relationship between Madame and her 13-year-old granddaughter, Fredrika, wise beyond her years. Fredrika is played by a very talented young actor and singer, Sophia Wasley. The scenes featuring the two together were a delight to watch.

Simon Gleeson as Fredrik Egerman showed why he was a sought-after leading man on London’s West End, and Australians are lucky to have him back on our stages.  It was an assured performance from this fine baritone.  Other standouts were velvet-voices mezzo jazz singer Alinta Chidzey as the maid Petra, former Victorian Opera Developing Artist Samuel Dundas as Count Carl-Magnus, and Verity Hunt-Ballard’s Countess Charlotte –her exquisite timing and dry delivery made her lovelorn Countess a real treat to watch.  Elisa Colla’s Anne was full of youthful naivety and charm.

In the central role of actress Desiree Armfeldt, Ali McGregor simply captivated the audience from start to finish, with her mastery of this complex character and her ability to deliver both the witty lines and the ones requiring pathos and subtlety. Her rendition of the famous “Send In The Clowns” was one of the best I have ever heard.

Costumes by Roger Kirk are stunning and lighting design by Trudy Dalgleish is effective and ethereal.

This is a truly fine production but it finishes on July 6 so book your ticket now or you will miss out on one of the shows of the year.

Julie Houghton reviewed Victorian Opera’s A Little Night Music  on Thursday, June 27, at the Arts Centre Melbourne Playhouse.

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