A Little Night Music – Original Broadway Cast Recording 1973
One by one, a Quintet (Benjamin Rayson, Teri Ralston, Barbara Lang, Gene Varrone, Beth Fowler) gathers in front of the curtain, blending their voices in song – Overture. As the curtain rises, elegantly dressed couples dance through a sylvan setting (“Night Waltz”), presaging the romantic flirtations and frustrations to come. The waltzers exit, and the aging Madame Armfeldt (Hermione Gingold), a woman who has numbered kings among her lovers, alerts her granddaughter Fredrika (Judy Kahan) to watch for the summer night to smile. “It smiles three times,” she says, “first, for the young, who know nothing; second, for the fools, who know too little; and, third, for the old, who know too much.” Attention shifts to the home of Fredrik Egerman (Len Cariou), a widowed lawyer who has recently married Anne, a young girl of eighteen (Victoria Mallory), Fredrik’s son by a previous marriage, Henrik (Mark Lambert) is a somber twenty-year-old divinity student who plays the cello in moments of stress. Fredrik arrives with tickets for the theater: he is taking Anne (still a virgin after eleven months of marriage) to see “the one and only” Désirée Armfeldt. As he prepares for his afternoon nap, and Anne chatters away, Fredrik muses on some of the problems encountered in his new marriage – “Now.” In the parlor, son Henrik is being flirted with by the less-than-virginal maid, Petra (D. Jamin-Bartlett). He clumsily tries to unbutton her blouse. Petra, merely amused, tells him, as she leaves the room, “Later. You’ll soon get the knack of it.” Frustrated, as usual, Henrik grabs his cello – “Later.” Back in the bedroom, Anne promises Fredrik to become his bride in deed, as well as in fact – “Soon.” Henrik continues complaining – “Later.” Fredrik, still asleep and obviously enjoying some vivid dream (“Now”), utters a heartfelt “Désirée.” Anne stares at him, startled. Désirée Armfeldt (Glynis Johns), the beguiling actress who was once Fredrik’s mistress, enters her dressing room at the theater, ironically extolling the joys of life on the road (“The Glamorous Life”), with comments by the Quintet and her disapproving mother, Madame Armfeldt. Fredrik and Anne arrive at the theater that evening, Anne clearly suspicious after Fredrik’s naptime slip of the tongue. Désirée makes her entrance, and spots Fredrik immediately. The Quintet comments on romantic recollections – “Remember?”. Désirée plays directly to Fredrik, upsetting Anne so much she rushes out of the theater. Fredrik takes his wife home and puts her to bed, while he goes “out for a breath of fresh air.” Naturally, his stroll takes him directly to Désirée’s rooms, to meet her for the first time in fourteen years. Désirée welcomes him warmly and lends a not-quite-sympathetic ear to Fredrik’s praise of Anne – “You Must Meet My Wife.” He tries to revive their relationship, and Désirée happily accepts with, “Of course, darling, what are old friends for?” Off they go to the bedroom. Madame Armfeldt, the grande dame of a more refined era, who has been “tidy enough to acquire a sizable mansion,” emerges from the theatrical shadows to lament the current lack of delicacy in the art of love – “Liaisons.” Fredrik and Désirée are disturbed by the unexpected arrival of Désirée’s current lover, a wildly jealous dragoon named Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (Laurence Guittard). Fredrik and Désirée quickly concoct a feeble story about legal papers and falling into a hip bath, to assure the Count that the situation is quite innocent. The Count sends Fredrik on his way in a nightshirt, and tries to assess the situation – “In Praise Of Women.” In the morning, the Count returns to his long-suffering wife, Charlotte (Patricia Elliott), suggesting that she might enlighten Anne about her husband’s late-night activities. Charlotte promptly goes to inform Anne of Fredrik’s infidelity and to commiserate with her about their mutual matrimonial problems – “Every Day a Little Death.” Désirée goes to the country to visit her mother and daughter, and to arrange for her mother to invite lawyer Egerman and his family out for the weekend, hoping to snare Fredrik back to herself. The invitation is sent, and Anne, after consulting with Charlotte, decides to accept. The Count, hearing of the weekend, decides that he and Charlotte should also make an appearance, uninvited – “A Weekend in the Country.” When all the guests, invited and uninvited, have arrived at Madame Armfeldt’s splendid château, the Quintet announces the end of the day (“Night Waltz I – The Sun Won’t Set”), then sets the tone for the magical white night (“Night Waltz II – The Sun Sits Low”), and Fredrik and the Count contemplate how things might have turned out differently with Désirée – “It Would Have Been Wonderful.” As the guests assemble for the candlelight feast in the formal dining room, the Quintet drifts in and out – “Perpetual Anticipation.” The dinner turns into a verbal sparring session, and ends with a furiously upset Henrik smashing his goblet in disgust and running from the room. The other guests scatter throughout the estate. Fredrik makes his way to Désirée’s bedroom, where she reveals her true reason for inviting him – her hope that they might be able to revive their love permanently. But Fredrik, unable to give up his child bride, walks out, leaving Désirée alone – “Send In the Clowns.” Meanwhile, Anne and Fredrika scour the grounds for Henrik. Anne finally finds him as he is suicidally rigging up a noose. Realizing that it is Henrik she loves, not “poor old Fredrik,” Anne decides to run off with him, Petra, the maid, having made love with Madame Armfeldt’s butler, Frid (George Lee Andrews), expresses her sense of romance in terms of the practical and real – “The Miller’s Son.” Fredrik finds himself being consoled by Charlotte about the loss of his son and wife. The Count spots Fredrik and Charlotte embracing. He storms out of the house to challenge Fredrik to a game of Russian roulette. They go off to the summer pavilion, a shot is heard, and the Count returns with Fredrik slung over his shoulder. Fredrik has “merely grazed his ear.” The Count orders Charlotte to pack their bags. At last, Désirée and Fredrik realize that they are meant to be together – “Send In the Clowns” (reprise). The comedy ended, Madame Armfeldt tells her granddaughter that the night has already smiled twice, once for the young and once for the fools. “The smile for the fools was particularly broad tonight,” To the accompaniment of the “Night Waltz,” the lover’s dance through the silver birches as the night smiles down for the third and final time – Finale.
– Didier C. Deutsch from the original liner notes by William Evans
In 1978 A Little Night Music was brought to the screen in a somewhat misguided transfer in which Elizabeth Taylor starred as Désirée, and Diana Rigg portrayed Charlotte, with Len Cariou, Laurence Guittard and Hermione Gingold reprising the roles they had created on Broadway. For that version, Sondheim reconceived one of the songs from the score, “The Glamorous Life,” with a modified melody and different lyrics, for Fredrika, Désirée’s daughter. The song (sung by Elaine Tomkinson for Chloe Franks, who played the role) has been added as a bonus track to this CD reissue of the original cast album.
Mr. Lindquist: Benjamin Rayson Mrs. Nordstrom: Teri Ralston Mrs. Anderssen: Barbara Lang Mr. Erlanson: Gene Varrone Mrs. Segstrom: Beth Fowler Fredrika Armfeldt: Judy Kahan Madame Armfeldt: Hermione Gingold Frid, her butler: George Lee Andrews Henrik Egerman: Mark Lambert Anne Egerman: Victoria Mallory Fredrik Egerman: Len Cariou Petra: D. Jamin-Bartlett Désirée Armfeldt: Glynis Johns Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm: Laurence Guittard Countess Charlotte Malcolm: Patricia Elliott