A Little Night Music

Now playing at the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway.

There’s something a very A Midsummer Night’s Dream about A Little Night Music. The Sondheim musical (based on the Bergman film Smiles on a Summer Night) introduces us to a number of unhappy, mismatched couples and then sends them all to the forest—well, the countryside here, but it serves the same symbolic purpose—where they sort themselves out, partnering off as they “should” more or less by accident. Anyone watching could be forgiven for mumbling something about what fools these mortals be. It’s that kind of story.

Which is to say it’s sweet and sometimes charming but also a bit exasperating because everyone is so blundering: few of the characters are truly actors in their own lives; rather, they just react, blindly, which makes for a flailing piece of drama. Certainly, a character’s passivity can be true to life, but I find it unpersuasive here, a little too glib, too smug—lazy sneering at the bourgeois. Sondheim’s music is always intriguing, but A Little Night Music will not go down as one of my favorite musicals.