Student productions of musicals are often tolerable, at best, and despite the effective marketing campaign which is currently dominating Oxford, I wasn’t sure if A Little Night Music would live up to the hype. However, even cooped up in Somerville Chapel, without the large space of The Oxford Playhouse to work with, the cast give a captivating performance. Whilst many directors may settle for great actors with passable singing voices, or terrific singers who can also memorise lines, Griffith Rees has managed to find a talented cast whose vocal and acting ability is extremely impressive.
The first scene they show us is an ensemble musical number from the first act, and with the addition of the magnificent student orchestra, it is thoroughly enjoyable. The musical tells the story of the interwoven romantic lives of glamorous couples among the Swedish elite. Most prominent is the affair between the glamorous Desiree Armfeldt (Georgina Hellier) and Count Carl-Magnus (Aleksandr Cvetkovic). Hellier gives a particularly confident performance as the conniving temptress and works well with Cvetkovic, who commands the stage as the demanding and impatient Count. The chemistry between the two makes theirs scenes engaging, especially when they are joined by Armfledt’s other lover, Fredrik Egerman, played by the amusing Richard Hill. Furthermore, all three actors find more humour in the musical than you would expect, and Hellier manages to make Armfledt’s duplicity hilarious, whilst Cvetkovic makes Carl-Magnus’ stubborn ignorance particularly entertaining.
Furthermore, there are many other commendable performances as Claire Parry’s sarcastic and dry wit, matched with her delightful singing voice makes her performance as Charlotte, Carl-Magnus’ mistreated wife, enthralling. Whilst I only saw a few scenes involving Madame Armfeldt (Natasha Heliotis) who majestically controls the romantic liaisons, that which I did see was riveting as Heliotis’ powerful stage presence, and range of facial expressions, allows her to dominate the stage, even when sat in the background. The cast are joined by the Liebeslieder, who act as a chorus, narrating the play and engendering the scene transition and the spectacular singing voices of Anjali Joseph and David Kell stand out as they resound throughout the chapel.
Of course, there are a view hitches. A couple of flat notes, and missed cues, but this does not detract from an otherwise aurally enchanting and generally entertaining performance. Rees’ vision as the director is clear, and the snippets of scenes that I saw left me wanting more. Despite the fact that they were only rehearsals, the strong performance of the cast made it clear that A Little Night Music will definitely be one of the unmissable shows of this term.
A Little Night Music will be showing from Wednesday 14th to Saturday 17th November at the Oxford Playhouse.