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A Little Night Music 

It's 2 1/2 hours long -- and not quite enchanting enough to let you forget it

Wednesday, Nov 5 2003
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Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's clever, lightsome take on Ingmar Bergman's film Smiles of a Summer Night has been re-set by Robert Kelley from the declining years of the 19th century to the opening years of the 20th -- specifically 1913, when the century was still pubescing. A middle-aged lawyer named Fredrik has married a pert 18-year-old, Anne, but still loves an actress closer to his own age named Desiree. Fredrik visits Desiree in secret, while Anne makes passes at his adolescent son, Henrik, who's studying for the priesthood. And so on. The patchwork unravels when Desiree's mother -- a wealthy, wheelchaired old woman who could have rolled straight over from a Tennessee Williams revival -- invites everyone to her estate for a stay in the country. (Norma Hughes plays and sings her with a fine world-weariness and gravity.) The production is mostly solid, except for the frivolous choral singing and an uncertain performance by Stanley Bahorek as Henrik. Allen Fitzpatrick sings Fredrik with a nice touch of melancholy; Lianne Marie Dobbs brings a powerful, Broadway-ready color to Anne's songs; and Charlotte Cornwall is a moving Desiree, even through the warhorse numbers like "Send in the Clowns." But Night Music lasts a solid 2 1/2 hours -- which this version isn't quite enchanting enough to let you forget.

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