A weekend in the country, anyone?
It’s almost summer. It’s warm and the daylight is stretching well into the evening. Are you smiling? You should be, because independent Melbourne company Watch This has just announced their 2018 season and it’s bigger and better than ever.
The 12-time Green Room Award nominated outfit, Watch This, kicked off just over five years ago in the lead up to their knock-out debut of Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece, Assassins, in early 2013. The self-professed ‘Sondheim repertory company’ followed on with highly acclaimed seasons of Pacific Overtures (Adrian Li Donni winning Best Supporting Actor), Company and most recently, Merrily We Roll Along – while piloting a model for touring their work to regional centres (Assassins, 2014 and Company, 2016) in partnership with Regional Arts Victoria.
With a glut of incredible performers itching to join the Watch This alumni, all that remained for Artistic Director, Sonya Suares, was to pick the right Sondheim to present in 2018.
“When you’re programming, you want to take your audience on a journey. We’d gone from socio-political drama with Assassins and Pacific Overtures to the realm of the personal-political with the last two (Company and Merrily We Roll Along). So it made sense for lots of reasons to go to A Little Night Music next”, Suares told AussieTheatre.com.
Inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night, Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s A Little Night Music follows the farcical romantic adventures of an ageing actress, her ex-lover, his virgin bride, a sex-starved divinity student, a buffoonish count and his long-suffering wife. With an impressive cast including Nadine Garner, John O’May, Carina Waye, Nelson Gardner, Eddie Muliaumaseali’i, Johanna Allen and Jackie Rees as Madame Armfeldt, A Little Night Music is poised to play in three Victorian theatres in February/ March 2018.
“We always consider what will work well in each new venue”, Suares explained.
“Having built relationships with several presenters with our previous tours, we had the opportunity to program into three proscenium arch venues in 2018 – one of these being the National Theatre Melbourne which is a gorgeous old heritage-listed space. So, A Little Night Music, just presented as the ideal choice. In fact, there’s even a lovely nod to the central character, Desiree Armfeldt, a veteran actress who is often away from home performing in travelling shows!”
Long-term collaborators Geelong Performing Arts Centre and Whitehorse Centre will also host the production, helping to bring Sondheim’s work to a wider audience.
“It’s just wonderful to once again bring complex, provocative, large-scale work about the human condition to audiences who may not otherwise access it. Be that because of distance or the cost of commercial music theatre … or even because the typical casting of this type of musical means they feel excluded from the work, that’s it’s not about them.”
Suares has enlisted fellow WAAPA graduate and seasoned opera director, Nicholas Cannon, to realise A Little Night Music. Cannon’s vision for the show probes beyond the typical ‘turn of the century’ farce to the disconnect between the characters’ private and public selves – something he sees as being very relevant to audiences today:
“What I love about this show is the slightly odd collection of characters and the tension between their public faces and their more unruly, comfortable realities or desires. So although it’s set at the turn of the last century, there’s an immediate parallel with our own time and how we curate our lives for public consumption via social media. It’s also incredibly witty. Plus I have an extraordinary line up of Australian talent to play with: Nadine, John, Eddie, Jackie … it’s a gift”, he said.
Rounding out the creative team will be one of Australia and New Zealand’s most in-demand choreographers, Michael Ralph (Georgy Girl, West Side Story) and Broadway Unplugged’s Daniele Buatti as Musical Director.
“And the music is glorious,” enthuses Suares. “It’s such a lush score with romantic numbers like ‘Liaisons’ and famously, ‘Send In The Clowns’ as well as fiendishly funny patter numbers ‘A Weekend in the Country’ and ‘It Would Have Been Wonderful’. And of course, my favourite, ‘The Miller’s Son’, which is both at once!”
What else could you want on a warm summer’s night?
With independent companies like Watch This, audiences in Melbourne are consistently treated to first class productions at a grass roots level. And thank goodness it’s not about to stop any time soon.
Early bird tickets are now selling at the National Theatre Melbourne, with GPAC and Whitehorse Centre box offices set to go live over the next two weeks.
National Theatre Melbourne, 28 February – 3 March ($39 – $55)
A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC
Desiree Armfeldt: NADINE GARNER
Frederick Egerman: JOHN O’MAY
Anne Egerman: CARINA WAYE
Henrik Egerman: NELSON GARDNER
Count Carl Magnus: EDDIE MULIAMASEALI’I
Countess Charlotte Magnus: JOHANNA ALLEN
Madame Armfeldt: JACKIE REES
Frederika Armfeldt: GRACE O’DONNELL-CLANCY
Petra: ANNA FRANCESCA ARMENIA
Frid/ Mr. Erlanson: ADRIAN BARILA
Mrs. Nordstrom: KATE LOUISE MACFARLANE
Mrs. Anderssen: GRETA WILKINSON
Mrs. Segstrom: KERRIE BOLTON
Mr. Lindquist: RAPHAEL WONG
Director: Nicholas Cannon
Musical Director: Daniele Buatti
Choreographer: Michael Ralph
Set Designer: Christina Logan Bell
Costume Designer: Emily Collett
Lighting Designer: Rob Sowinski
Other seasons include Geelong Performing Arts Centre, February 22 – 24 2018 and Whitehorse Centre, March 8-10 2018