Sunday, September 6, 2015

Night Music

Please note: Tampereen Työväen Teatteri invited me to see the premiere of this production for free.

A Little Night Music – or, in Finnish, Desirée – Pieni yösoitto – is a hard musical to summarise. I think the best way to go is a chart. I already used this in my preview post of Tampereen Työväen Teatteri's new production of the show, but I shall recap here.

Take this combination of characters, enclose them in a country manor for a weekend, and see what happens.

A Stephen Sondheim musical based on Ingmar Bergman's movie Smiles of a Summer Night, A Little Night Music is sort of a romantic musical farce with a cutting edge – whipped cream mixed with razorblades, it has been described. The characters are all looking for love, and everyone feels trapped in their own way. Finally, the tensions unravel during a midsummer night.

I'm not a big Sondheim buff, but A Little Night Music is actually one of my all-time favourite musicals. I'm glad to see it return to Finland.

And as always with favourite things, let's discuss the bad things first.

My biggest problem with Tampereen Työväen Teatteri's production is the characterisation of Anne Egerman. Anne is middle-aged Fredrik Egerman's 19-year-old wife. The bubbly young woman charms the whole Egerman household: Henrik, Fredrik's son from a previous marriage, is also head over heels in love with her.

Anne is written as childish and immature, but sadly, Miika Muranen's direction turns her into a brat. Anna-Elisa Hannula is lovely whenever she has a somber moment, but those are few and far in between. For the most part, she is no more than an annoying kid. I really don't get what the Egerman men see in her.

In general, Muranen's direction underlines certain jokes and parts of the script too heavily. During some scenes, it felt like the director didn't quite trust the text. A shame, since Juice Leskinen's Finnish translation of Hugh Wheeler's book and Stephen Sondheim's lyrics is a fine one and could certainly get the point across without any extra action.

In the premiere, the first half of the first act still felt a little clumsy, I guess simply because of opening night nerves. The further the show progressed, the better it got. Things were underlined less, the pace got faster.

By the end of the first act, I was laughing out loud, and by the end of the second one, wiping tears. During the second act, I don't think I stopped to mentally nitpick once. I just watched and enjoyed.

The cast is a perfect fit. Sparks fly in between the leading couple, Veeti Kallio's Fredrik and Petra Karjalainen's Desirée, and the secondary couples deliver too. Not to mention the choir, commenting on the follies of the idle upper class leads with a beautiful mix of voices.

Once again, my favourite actor Severi Saarinen is fantastic in his role, this time as the timid and inhibited priest-to-be Henrik. I believe he could act whichever part and I would be completely invested – of course he turns Henrik, a character I didn't much care for before, into one I cannot tear my eyes off of. Exactly what I expected would happen, really.

Another true highlight is Tuire Salenius's Madame Armfeldt. The character doesn't have plenty of time onstage, but Salenius makes every second count, timing her jokes perfectly. Love her!

Visually, the production is stunning. I was amazed from the very first minute. Tarja Lapintie's costumes with their delicious candy colours, Eero Auvinen's beautiful lights and Hannu Lindholm's grand sets bring a bright dash of midsummer magic into the darkening autumn.

I applaud Tampereen Työväen Teatteri for choosing A Little Night Music as their big musical for the autumn of 2015. It's clever, funny, touching, brilliant, and – apart from a couple of nitpicks – beautifully executed.

I've a feeling I'm going to watch the musical several times more. And if you happen to be visiting Tampere this autumn, I recommend you'll take a look too.

Photos by Kari Sunnari.
Lisää Juicen käännöksestä suomeksi.
Lue myös Katrin, Lauran ja Tallen arvostelut.

No comments:

Post a Comment