Never have I seen such perfection in a theatre! Perfect casting, wonderful lyrics and a simple but beautiful set. Hannah Waddingham stands way above the other performers (not just in height!), her acting is just sensational, so emotional but very funny when the part requires. Someone has said that she has a personality that could fill the O2 and I couldn't put it better myself. Having met her after the show I can confirm that she is every bit as wonderful as we would all hope! - Emma
29 Jul 09
Gosh, I think I was at another production to all the other reviewers, I found it plodding, boring and ultimately pointless! There were a couple of stand out tunes - 'Send in the Clowns' was really quite beautiful - but I didn't really care about any of the characters, it was completely contrived and not particularly memorable. Sorry! - Cathy
09 Jul 09
Ravishing, simply ravishing. - QuincyMD
28 May 09
This is a wonderful production which exudes class and quality - the staging is wonderful, very much with the Chocolate factory stamp on it, the costumes are sumptous and the cast is stupendous with no weak links. The casting is perfect, each actor bringing out the real essences of the characters they play. The songs are of course wonderful, not least The Millers Son, Every Day a Little Death, Liaisons and of course Send in the Clowns which as with previous productions bought a tear to my eye. This is Sondheim at its best. Lets hope the Menier does more. - Paul Wallis
24 Apr 09
This superb production is perfectly cast with standout performances from Hannah Waddingham, Kelly Price and especially Jessie Buckley who I was very impressed with. Maureen Lipman delivers a masterclass in comic timing. Probably one of Sondheim's best musical scores with many memorable songs. One of the best shows I've seen for a long time. At last we have something fresh and decent in the West End! - Samuel
12 Apr 09
After seeing this production last night I am a total convert, despite not having previously been a Sondheim fan. The piece is a coherent whole, with memorable melodies and a wonderful "chamber music" score superbly executed by the musicians who rightly took a bow on stage with the equally superb cast. The production, although not opulent and OTT like so many theatre pieces currently showing, worked convincingly and fluently. It provided an appropriate backdrop to too many great performances to mention each one individually, although those of Maureen Lipman and Hannah Waddingham will certainly stay in the memory for many years.
A fabulous show, intelligent in composition and execution - one not to be missed. - Gwyn Maysey
08 Apr 09
It comes as no great surprise that a Trevor Nunn production is better suited to a larger theatre. Although the chamber aspects of the story worked well at the Chocolate Factory the performers seem to have greater confidence projecting to a larger auditorium, although Jessie Buckley's lack of training and technique is sometimes badly exposed. Alexander Hanson exudes more authority and charm as Frederick but the real star is Hannah Waddingham. Her comic timing and song interpretation are outstanding and ahe has a personality which could fill the O2. A Little Night Music is the Sondheim show for people, like me, who don't much like Sondheim - genuinely witty rather than too clever by half, and bursting with memorable songs. This looks like being another triumphant transfer for the tiny Southwark theatre, which is quickly building a reputation to rival that of the Donmar. - David Baxter
08 Apr 09
This has grown so much since I saw it at the Menier 4 months ago and it fits its new home like a glove. It has developed a confidence and depth which more than justified a second look. There isn't a fault in the casting and the elegant but simple design facilitates the waltz flow of the show. Amongst the unsung heros are Jason Carr's terrific arrangements for a wonderful 6-piece band (and great to see them coming up front to take their well earned bows) and the most perfect amlified sound I've ever heard in a theatre - not too loud, unobtrusive and you could hear every word of the sparkling dialogue and lyrics. This production brings out the warmth and humour others often overlook - I doubt this Sondheim show has ever been performed to the perfection of the opening night. Yet another smooth transfer from the musical powerhouse that is the Menier. - Gareth James
08 Apr 09
An excellent cast keeps alive the historic tradition of superb performances in this magnificently written Sondheim classic. With my brother and fellow American was privileged to be part of an enthusiastic audience cheering the West End opening Mar 28 at the Garrick. I look forward to
fond and vivid memories rekindling in the future each time I hear "Send In The Clowns". - Bart Denechaud
02 Apr 09
I had never been to the Menier before but it is definetly my favourite theatre (along with Her Majesty's). This show is an inspiration- Hannah Waddingham and Alexander Hanson are sensational and Maureen Lipman is perfection, such good comic timing! Jessie Buckley was much better than I expected, Gabriel Vick played his part perfectly and special mention must go to Grace Link who is the best child actor I have ever seen. Hope is makes its way into town soon as planned. - N Kent
15 Feb 09
This show can't be beaten - it is Sondheim at its best, performed by a cast where every one of them deliver a superb performance. Its got humour, pathos, rhythm, energy, and great music. The Menier has that special intimacy of being a small theatre, but assuming it transfers to the West End (as surely it must) it will still be well worth seeing in a larger setting. - Peter Grant
30 Jan 09
I must admit to being a little hesitant. Trevor Nunn is infamous for over-long productions - and recently over-long ones which aren't very good. Put that together with the fact that the quaint little Menier theatre is well known for having horribly uncomfertable bench seating - and it doesn't fill you with glee. However, even at three hours long - A Little Night Music was truly fantastic.
People were still casually taking their seats at just after 8pm (ignorant) which meant we didn't get out until gone 11 thus missing our train but it didn't distract from the fact that this was one of the best shows I've seen this year.
Well done - James Kent
28 Jan 09
The Chocolate Factory has undergone a transformation with the stage and the seating rotated 180 degrees. It has also somehow changed from a sauna, even in winter, to an icebox - although that is quite suitable for a Sondheim show as I find all his musicals suffer from an icy heart. A Little Night Music is more accessible than most, but as usual there is an element of style over substance, in this case an insistence that all the songs are written in waltz time. Unfortunately that means that most of the songs sound very similar with the exception of Send in the Clowns, beautifully performed by Hannah Wadingham and a song which makes no sense whatsoever outside the context of the show. Trevor Nunn's direction seems more suited to a larger proscenium theatre, an impression reinforced by our seats to one side where we felt disengaged from the performers who seemed to have forgotten we were there. However, it should be said that A Little Night Music benefits from an excellent book, adapted from Bergman, and some superb performances. Maureen Lipman is in full Edith Evans mode, Alex Hanson finds unexpected charm from Frederick and Hannah Waddingham is excellent as Desiree if perhaps a little too young and still glamorous (special thanks to the designer for the mirrored set when Ms Waddingham displays her ample charms to Frederick). Even Jessie Buckley holds her own, although unexpectedly her acting proves stronger than her singing, totally the reverse of her "Nancy" experience. I cannot say I have been converted to Sondheim but this show has increased my appreciation of his work. - David Baxter
28 Dec 08
A very enjoyable take on A Little Night Music; the chamber setting bringing out an intimacy in the piece. The first act's played a little slow, though this does mean that all Sondheim's delicious lyrics are audible; but the second act really comes to life. I was a little disappointed when the casting was announced, but admit to being wrong, they do a great job and Hannah Waddingham and Alex Hanson are wonderful.
23 Dec 08
This is an exquisite production of one of Sondheim's most deceptively difficult scores. By reverting to the character ages in the original Bergman film(i.e. younger than we're used to), Trevor Nunn has ensured that this is also something of a revelatory staging. The performances of Hannah Waddingham, Alexander Hanson, Gabreil Vick and Kelly Price are particularly superb, while Maureen Lipman is utterly perfect as Madame Armfeldt. I found Jessie Buckley a bit irritating (more than the character requires) but she does show real promise. All in all, this is a must see. - ajh
18 Dec 08
Oophs! Calm down Joe it's only a blog. As I said before it's not the scale of the production I am referring to but something else an energy and an enthusiasm which the performers on Broadway have, they really do give it their all. Perhaps it's in the blood? Perhaps it's just the American way? But whatever it is and where ever it comes from they deliver it in spades. It's that dynamism which would make what many consider to be good here look rather second rate there. And if that happens to be sneering then so be it, but it was not my intention - it's just a fact. Now don't be rude Joe...and calm down! - rds
09 Dec 08
Rather patronising, RDS - or, rather, rds as you're obviously a pretty lower case person ... wouldn't you say most posters on the WoS site are theatre buffs who are likely to have visited Broadway? I lived there (or at least in Manhattan) and could point out that the average Broadway theatre is 50 to 75% larger than the average West End one, and the average ticket price is 50% higher. So from the outset production budgets tend to be two to two and a half times the equivalent of putting something on in London, and tend to favour production values and special effects over scalable acting or the subtleties of an un-miked production. Both have their place of course, but it seems unnecessarily sneering to value Broadway so highly over London's West End. - Joe Volpe
09 Dec 08
There is an edge to Broadway which anyone who has been there will know exactly what I mean, they give absolutely everything to the part. It really doesn't happen as often as that here. That excellence, from all involved, is what defines Broadway and it really isn't anything to do with the scale of a production either. As for Mr Sondheim being brought to tears twice. He is a very witty man, perhaps he was just being ironic? And yes it was freezing the night I went, but warmed up after the first couple of hours or so! - rds
09 Dec 08
Firstly, take a coat. The theatre is absolutely freezing. Probably due to the dry ice that lingers in the air helping to create the very real twilight effect.
Overall, I thought the production worked really well. It does feel a bit long though - even in the first half which is odd as it omits My Husband The Pig which featured in the National production.
Interesting that Nunn reinstated Silly People in the second half. It is quite unnecessary to have two servants' songs in my opinion. However, I actually think that Silly People is better placed and more relevant than The Millers Son. That is not to say that The Miller's Son is not fantastically sung, just that at that point in the show I think we have already had a servant's POV and it interrupts the main story (we are almost three hours in by now remember.....)
I do not understand rds's comments about the quality of performance vs Broadway, talk about a sweeping generalisation. I thought the performances were uniformly good - I must mention the three male leads (who everyone seems to forget.) All amazing.
Only gripe about this show - the ending leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. As far as I can tell, Frederik is too weak to leave Ann and only ends up with Desiree because his son has run off with his wife. I would not be happy if I was Desiree. Sloppy seconds and all that...... - Mistertonymac
09 Dec 08
What would Mr Sondheim have thought? Happy to enlighten you because on this occasion God and I both know. He told Hannah Waddingham that this was the first time he'd seen ALNM when it moved him to tears in the first act, as well as the second. Excusing himself from the RADA opening of 'Poppy' on the same night, he told Peter Nichols that 'it's Thanksgiving, I'm having my own turkey' ... so make of those contrasting remarks what you will. And sorry for the name dropping. - JohnnyFox
09 Dec 08
Well, doesn't rds go on! And before he compares this to a Broadway production, he should consider the fraction of a Broadway price he paid at this Fringe venue. Despite doing it on a budget, this production gives far better value (with superb casting, singing, and direction) than many shows I have seen in NY. No need for me to repeat the praise given elsewhere here, just to say I thought it charming, very amusing, and a perfect fit for the Menier. - Mikey
08 Dec 08
I like Stephen Sondheim's work but never a fan of A Little Night Music until this Production by David Babani. The cast is wonderful the costume by David Farley is top class. Trevor Nunn is back on top form !!! - from an audience point of view
07 Dec 08
A wonderful production. It was my first Sondheim on stage and i found it wonderful. - Manos
07 Dec 08
Well doesn't JohnnyFox go on and do I detect an elememt of anti-semitism in his blog? Anyway, cutting to the chase, as it were, it didn't happen for me, simple as that. It certainly looked good, even with the lighting at energy saving levels (I know there is a credit crisis, but this is ridiculous). And who cast the production, it was all to cock! OK, Mr Nunn says in the program notes that almost every other production has got it wrong casting Desirée a decade or so older than she should be and that's why he aimed to put the matter right. Well Trev' I guess the reason why they've done that in the past is because it works! For all the hype I got very little from this production and I really was hoping for so much more. Ms Lipman was totally miscast as Madame Armfeldt, what were they thinking about? I've recently returned from NYC where, as many of you may know, the standard expected of performers is exceptionally high, so what must poor ol' Mr Sondheim have thought when he had to endure this second rate production last week - god only knows! I think it should be mandatory for British producers and directors to undergo a compulsory introductory course to the standards of Broadway theatre before they take any liberties here with American shows, however big their status may be - OK, Mr Nunn. - rds
07 Dec 08
I've always thought Follies and this are Sondheim's most accessible but least inventive shows; rather conventional shows really. This benefits from a chamber staging and the musical standards are simply stunning. Maureen Lipman does a great turn and Alexander Hanson, afer The Sound of Music & Marguerite, continues his run of excellent musical performances. As much as I like Hannah Waddingham, I'm afraid her miscasting is proven by an unmoving Send in the Clowns. Though it's good to see Trevor Nunn back on form, I must take him to task for the hipocracy of his rant against TV casting swiftly followed by his own casting of the runner up in the last TV casting show! - Gareth James
06 Dec 08
I'm also a bit confused by the comment on Jessie Buckley. The scenes in which Anne dominates will, by definition of the character, appear to be of a slower pace. Anne is barely more than a child herself, burdened by her fear of consummating her marriage and her doubting of her true feeling for her husband. The slower pace in these scenes merely reflects her indecision. As for underpowered and gauchely acted, well Anne is a gauche, inexperienced bride lacking confidence in the world she now inhabits and I think Jessie Buckley portrays this brilliantly. - Derek Tyson
05 Dec 08
A very curious comment about Jessie Buckley. Anne could be described as underconfident, naive (even gauche?) and perhaps immature. She has been thrust from being a schoolgirl into Society more than twice her age and is probably pretty bemused about it. Could the Jessie he saw perhaps have been ACTING? She does tend to live a role. - Roger Tanner
04 Dec 08
Everything you would want out of a show. - Katie Cook
04 Dec 08
Erm, how come Michael Coveney gives it 4 stars for whatsonstage and 5 stars for The Independent?! - Jason Higham
04 Dec 08
With the Whingers to a Sunday matinee of 'A Little Night Music' in its Trevor Nunn reincarnation at the Menier Chocolate Factory theatre, auditorium nicely reoriented from the womblike velvet tunnel structure for Cage aux Folles to something resembling a miniaturised hexagon, pre-theatre lunch nicely presented, seats now numbered and reserved, toilets clean, doors to automatic, all boxes ticked for an enjoyable afternoon ...
In this extraordinarily classy production, with money spent in ways to which the Menier is unaccustomed - set, costumes, cast, lighting (needs a few more shillings in the meter, Trevor) and backstage, this production looks destined for a West End transfer before it opens. Except I hope it doesn't, because the intimacy of the production generates an involvement in the family lives of the lawyer Fredrick and the actress Desiree that I just don't remember from the Judi Dench version in the Olivier in 1995.
In fact, all I can recall of the Olivier production was the cast, including an increasingly breathless Dench, running the huge distances on and off stage between every scene. It could have been directed by Sebastian Coe.
With compactness comes brevity. For Trevor Nunn to bring in a show at under three hours is something of a rarity, but this one keeps a good pace despite the langourous nature of the Swedish summer night, and its underlying themes of despair.
What drove it for me was the energetic and realistic performances of Alexander Hanson (every time I see him deliver another cracker of a male lead I wonder how he failed so badly as Captain von Trapp?) and even more cracking Hannah Waddingham as Desiree, making her a living, breathing, funny, fallible, sexually urgent and credible beauty in ways I can't recall other actresses achieving in the same role.
It's Waddingham's wholly believable cental performance that reminds us this is a comedy. Too many directors have treated ALNM as if it were some Ibsenesque holy writ, overshadowed by the Guardian-reader movie and its self-style auteur Ingmar Bergman. For once, Nunn accentuates the base comedy, and it could do with even more to reposition this as an ENJOYABLE piece of Sondheim, rather than a museum piece out of his 'stultifying' box like Sunday in the Park.
What this production could NOT do with is the unbalancing presence of that old Golders Green department store Maureen and Lipman whose contents have yet again been spilled on the London stage. Teetering between a dessicated Thatcher, and Miss Havisham, Lipman plays Madame Armfeldt as a powdered corpse, picking up every vowel with sugar tongs and flicking them at the audience with her trademark sideways glance in stark contrast to the naturalism all around her.
Trevor Nunn sat on the aisle across from me and scribbled notes almost continuously through the show with a green-illuminated pen-light. After Lipman stretched her number 'Liaisons' into a caramel-jawed dirge, I swear I saw him write "phone Sheila Hancock".
Lipman aside, the singing in the show is excellent. Hanson's rich baritone pins Fredrick perfectly, and even the 'more actress than singer' members of the cast give excellent musical performances, notably Jessie Buckley (apparently a runner-up Nancy in the TV search for a star programme) as Fredrick's young wife Anne who assails Sondheim's dressy tessitura with bravado.
The Liebeslieder or chorus of smaller characters deserve special mention. I always enjoy comparing the shapes and sizes of the bit-part players to the leads, and try to match the more obvious understudies. Here it also works where an older lady, a tall woman, a pert girl and two heroic male-leads-in-waiting are assembled, but this time they are surprisingly fine singers and actors, and if the curse of the Menier were to call any of them into a lead role, it would not diminish the production at all.
Destined for a three month run, I can't see how the economics work. Even though it will sell out, 13 weeks of full houses will only generate about £600k, and I can't see how that will pay this large cast of experienced and actors, and Mr Nunn, what they deserve. www.blowstar.blogspot.com
01 Dec 08
This show was a real treat. As a card-carrying Sondheim fan, I loved it; a beautiful and sparkling adaptation. But Trevor Nunn has ensured that non-Sondheim fans will love it as well. In Trev's capable hands it becomes all the things people complain Sondheim isn't; funny, fast, gripping, moving and accessible. A fantastic evening out. - Jon Musker
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