Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
"A Little Night Music" is one of the most exquisite and difficult of modern musical plays and Shady Grove is giving Stephen Sondheim's gem a gemlike production. This is far the best staging the Grove has had in some summers.
Quite apart from stars Jean Simons and Hermione Ginglod, the reasons are quickly apparent. The direction is by producer Hal Prince's long-time associate Ruth Mitchell, who embraces "in the round" staging with remarkable facility. Conducting is Paul Gemignani, who led the original.
The Florence Klotz original costumes retain a lovely air of turn-of-the-century elegance, and many in the skilled company have had their roles before, including that divine D'jamin-Bartlett, who sings that ingenious number she introduced and recorded, "The Miller's Son."
Having spent the day dreading waht I migh see in the evening. I was practically bowled over to find a production worthy of the original. When Simmons headed the touring version's Kennedy Center opening night, the sound system was painful, but Wednesday night Shady Grove caught the airy graces of the New York original.
The musical, you'll recall, stems from Ingmar Bergman's film comedy, "Smiles of a Summer Night," adapted to the stage by Hugh Wheeler with music and lyrics by Sondheim.
The setting is Sweden, the central figure a middle-aged lawyer who has been married almost a year to a virgin young enough to be his daughter. How chance and an old flame, a glamourous actress, resolve his quandary involves many others, including the actress' lover, his wife, the lawyer's son and the actress' mother.
The intention was to echo Mozart (hence the title from "Eine Kleine Nachtmusic" and Sondheim's score does so with youthful wit and variety. A quintet becomes not only part of the orchestra but also a commenting chorus on this night "The Sun Won't Set." The most famous of the songs is "Send in the Clowns," which Simmons does with greater ease than she showed at the start of her long association with the part. Ultimately, she went on the play the London version. For the great, gruff Gingold there is a memoir, "Liaisons," shrewd observations in her unique style.