Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Late night post: a review of A Little Night Music.

I won't talk about cricket much right now, although at some point I would like to. I can at least say I was at Lord's for an historic match. It's unfortunate that it was English history and not Australian history. Three matches to go, though, so all is not lost, just a 75 year old record. And I did have a lot of fun, just not as much as I would've if we'd won.

As part of my recovery, I went to see "A Little Night Music" in Leicester Square.

I had mixed up the nights and turned up a night early, and not only did the theatre staff find me a seat, it was better than the one I had booked. One of the pluses of travelling alone is that you are easier to seat at short notice.

A Little Night Music (ALNM) is a Sondheim musical, so it has beautiful music, (all in waltz time, and several pieces are waltzes) a plot, dialogue and lyrics which are clever, funny, sharp, cynical and touching; sometimes all at once. At first I thought it might in fact be a little too cynical and sharp for someone wandering the world on her own, thinking about the meaning of life and having just seen her team lose the cricket. But then again, I like Sondheim precisely because his musicals aren't necessarily light and bubbly, but acknowledge the dark and twisty undercurrrents of life. It is still a musical so there is more light than shade, and I ended up coming out on that high you get from seeing a great story very well done... well, I get a high from that, anyway.

Having spent the last week in Oxford discussing, among other things, staging, dialogue, use of the body in conveying meaning, pauses, blocking, interpretation (etc etc ... and on, and on....) I was watching these things with a semi-critical eye and I still loved it. Silence and pauses were used to great effect, (rare in a musical) and the delivery of dialogue, whether in prose or in song, was very well done. Not necessarily the greatest singers in the world, but I understand a number of these songs were written with that in mind, so it would seem that Sondheim was more concerned with acting ability in some characters. There is an opening song where three characters sing individual pieces and merges into a three part harmony about 'now,' 'soon,' 'later': beautiful harmonies and the lyrics layer each other and add depth to each other.

You can tell I enjoyed it because I have the urge to write about it! Another feature of ALNM is it has a kind of chorus; five characters who introduce, observe, comment from the sidelines in song. Interestingly, "Henry V" has a chorus, usually done as one person. We attempted to see it in Oxford but only saw the first act and a half before a rain delay. The director had divided the chorus into four parts, which didn't work well as they were trying to establish seperate characters from something written for one. Watching ALNM, I could see how it could have been done; how these five people worked together as a group character, but still had identities and just-hinted-at back stories which wove throughout the main drama.

I appreciated both Sondheim's words and music (which I will be finding for my iPod) and in this particular production (a smaller one) I also appreciated the direction and acting. A minimalist set, but it was used well and a number of props filled it out, so it wasn't bare bones. The odd bit of singing let them down a little, but for me this was outweighed by the excellence of everything else.


Mum said...

You have to love Sondheim. Can't wait to hear about your course too.

Maureen Shelley said...

There is such a depth of writing talent in this family, I get misty eyed. I think the seven of you - and perhaps Leon (or at least Blackie Rhonda) and Bush Truck should collate a book of your writings. There are photos galore to illustrate it. Monica or I could edit it. It would be a best seller even if limited only to family and friends. I dips me lid.

missjane said...

*curtseys* Merci, madame.

I must admit, I proof-read the longer posts a few times, bearing in mind my audience! It has been good for my bad habits of repetition and casual sentence structure.

I have a food review coming up... had dinner at an amazing Italian place last night.