Sally Wingert in rehearsal for "A Little Night Music." /Emilee Elofson

Actors in classic works know that others have preceded them in the roles they’re tackling but most try to avoid seeing earlier versions when they’re preparing for an iconic role. So you can imagine Sally Wingert’s dismay when, sitting at a cabaret performance by Regina Marie Williams and Greta Oglesby last July at the Dakota, Williams began singing “Send in the Clowns,” a number Wingert knew she’d be singing in “A Little Night Music,” which opens Saturday at Theater Latte Da.

Actually, you don’t have to imagine her reaction.

“I wanted to kill her,” says Wingert, with a chuckle (she and Williams are pals). “But what can I do? I am so not Regina.”

The thing with the ubiquitous “Send in the Clowns” is that it’s difficult not to encounter. Stephen Sondheim’s best-known song has been covered by so many different artists, from ‘70s folk singers to ‘80s glam rockers to timeless amazons, that it’s tough to avoid. There’s even a video online of Sondheim teaching a singer exactly how to sing “Send in the Clowns.”

If you’re looking around for “Clowns,” a good place to start is with the woman for whom the song was written, who also happens to be Wingert’s favorite, Glynis Johns:

If you like your "Send in the Clowns" a little more electronic and cocaine-y, there's Bryan Ferry's version:

The song has rarely been accused of being peppy, but Grace Jones seems to think it is:

Madonna's take is surprisingly literal (and a little pitchy):

And you can't go wrong with Dame Judi Dench, whose version is said to be a Sondheim favorite;

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