Singing, Sweden & Sondheim at the Rotunda Theatre

Dan School puts on production of Sondheim classic

The musical offered a new twist on Sondheim.
The musical offered a new twist on Sondheim.
Credit: 
Supplied by Jordan Pike

For four more days this month, the Rotunda Theatre will transform into the Swedish countryside for the classic Steven Sondheim musical A Little Night Music.

The leading roles in the show are protagonists Fredrik Egerman and Madame Armfeldt, the head members of their respective families. These two main characters stand out significantly because of the great performances from Callum Lurie and Sarah Currie, respectively.

The two are given the funniest lines of the show and are delivered with with ease. Lurie especially shines while portraying the exasperated middle-aged lawyer trying to settle down with his new 18-year-old wife. His strong performance extends to his lusting over Armfeldt’s daughter — a former fling named Desiree.

Unfortunately, the characters’ growing romantic interests are far from successful and the ensuing strife sets the stage for the rest of the musical.  

All this drama is framed through a five-person chorus of the characters’ servants. The chorus singers alternate between lighthearted servants and their ominous chanting counterparts who appear in red lighting on stage to presage the discord to follow.  

The chorus hints at Fredrik and Desiree’s affair, overlaying the earlier parts of the show with a foreboding mood.

Most of the characters’ relationships fall victim to jealousy, stupidity or a mixture of the two. In some notable examples, Fredrik loses his new wife to his son, and his son runs away from his seminary training to be with his father’s new wife.

Photo supplied by Jordan Pike. 

The drama of the musical is offset somewhat by the pared-down set. The design is sparse and minimal, leaving the audience to focus on the unfolding character-based turmoil on stage.

There’s no wine in the bottles and the only pieces of furniture used are a few chairs and a bed.

Aside from the staging, the most ambitious aspect of the Dan School adaptation is the way the production uses the performance area. For one, it’s the clearest departure from other typical versions of the musical – proving to be at odds with the classic setting, social mores and attire of the show.

Along with the stage, the performers make use of a small floor space with two rows of seating that extend all the way to the audience. The stage itself is three small, elevated areas that abut a sky-blue backdrop.

This seems an odd way to stage a classic musical by Sondheim given the traditions of the theatre, but it proves to be successful as it allows the performers to actively engage with the audience members during intermissions.  

The show successfully brings a classic piece of music into an atypical performance area and doesn’t suffer any hiccups.

All in all, the performance at the Rotunda Theatre presents a faultless adaptation of a classic play. The Dan School’s update of A Little Night Music is truly a showcase of the talent at Queen’s.

The play ran from March 1 - 4 and will finish from the 7 - 11 at the Rotunda Theatre.

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