Thursday, 3 August 2017

REVIEW: A Little Night Music at the Watermill Theatre in Newbury

The Watermill Theatre near Newbury is always a joy to visit with expectant anticipation of how they will transform the intimate venue into a perfect setting for each new production. On this occasion as part of its 50th anniversary season, David Woodhead has created a beautiful romantic setting of a panelled room, which magically transforms in Act 2 into a woodland setting in the country for Stephen Sondheim's delightful 1973 musical which was first produced by Hal Prince. Set in Scandinavia with strong Ibsen undertones and peppered with wit that Oscar Wilde might have written, this is Sondheim at his best. The story explores love ,marriage and infidelity.

In this production director Paul Foster creates a wonderful musical and visual feast with a multitalented cast of 13 actor/musicians. The choreography of their movement by Matt Flint means that even when they are all centre stage they blend to present wonderful romantic groupings and the sound they create with Sarah Travis's arrangements is gorgeous.

The central character is Desiree Armfeldt, a touring actress, played with great charm by Josefina Gabrielle. She looks like Mary Poppins when she first appears and she is indeed practically perfect in every way. No more so in the touching and still version of the most famous reflective song from the show "Send in the Clowns".

Her mother, Madame Armfeldt is played with Lady Bracknell like cool, wise authority by Dillie Keane and she is particularly enjoyable hosting a dinner party in the country with her family.

Fredrika, the daughter of Desiree, played by debutant Tilly-Mae Millbrook, is entrancingly innocent from the moment she opens the show recreating her mother's performances on an Edwardian toy stage.

These three central characters lives are intertwined with the Countess Charlotte Malcolm, played with indignant composure by Phoebe Fildes and Anne Egerman, played as a reluctant bride by Lucy Keirl and their husbands. As one on the characters observes in song, men are stupid , men are vain and Alex Hammond and Alastair Brookshaw fit that description well! 

While only "Send in the clowns" is well known there are plenty of other delightful waltz time tunes to enjoy including "Glamorous life", "A weekend in the country" and "It would have been wonderful" which remind us of Sondheim's distinctive unique style and provide more highlights .

Following on from its success with "Calamity Jane" in 2014 and "Crazy for you" in 2016 the Watermill has another musical success which deserves another transfer or tour.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★
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