The long dark winters of northern climes add piquancy to the enjoyment of summer. That's something Minnesotans can wrap their arms around, and it's this sense of fleeting zest that permeates Stephen Sondheim's 1973 musical "A Little Night Music."
Mu Performing Arts' current production perfectly captures that mood, infusing the work with all the magic and crisp effervescence of a glass of champagne on a perfect summer evening.
Sondheim's musical literally waltzes as it punctuates its tale of mismatched lovers with witty, lyrical songs in 3⁄4 time. Loosely based on Ingmar Bergman's film "Smiles of a Summer Night," the play revolves around a series of interlocking love triangles.
Middle-aged attorney Fredrik has been married for 11 months to 18-year-old Anne when he meets up with his former lover, actress Desiree. Anne, meanwhile, maintains a coyly flirtatious friendship with Fredrik's son, Henrik, and Desiree is enjoying a fling with the hotheaded Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm, much to the chagrin of his neglected wife, Charlotte.
Everyone else races to keep up with the various permutations that develop.
While much of the cast of this production is Asian-American, director Rick Shiomi keeps the musical firmly within the boundaries of turn-of-the-19th-century Swedish high society.
Randy Reyes, the new artistic director of Mu, leads the ensemble as an appealing and wryly comic Fredrik, a man variously bemused and exasperated by his young wife.
In contrast, Sheena Janson's Desiree is steely and world-wise, making her rendition of "Send in the Clowns," with its revelation of the vulnerability beneath her poise, a stunningly poignant moment.
Fine work is provided by several others as well. Meghan Kreidler offers a beautifully multifaceted performance as Charlotte, combining sharply comic cynicism with a finely wrought sorrow, and she and Suzie Juul as Anne turn the duet "Every Day a Little Death" into one of the musical highlights of the show. Wes Mouri wallows in hilariously moody angst as young Henrik, while Alex Galick's Carl-Magnus provides plenty of broad comedy as he strikes noble poses and exudes bravado. Danielle Wong's fresh, unforced performance as Desiree's daughter Fredrika serves as a lovely foil to the contrivance that surrounds her.
Director Shiomi maintains a leisurely, lighter-than-air pace throughout, allowing full rein to the sparkling complexity of Sondheim's wit and wordplay, while Jason Hansen's music direction lends lovely lyricism and texture to the proceedings.
An adept chorus, lush costume design by Lynn Farrington and six-member onstage orchestra are the dazzling finishing touches that make this production of "A Little Night Music" a thoroughly delightful confection of a show.
Lisa Brock writes about theater.