Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music," that concoction of Mozartean tones, waltz rhythms and Swedish passion, must make musical comedy practitioners giddy with anticipation. What female vocalist could resist the melancholy of "Send In the Clowns"? What male duo could turn down the prospects of "It Would Have Been Wonderful"? What choral quintet wouldn't kill to do "Remember"?
Theatre West, as part of its 25th anniversary celebration, couldn't say no to temptation. It's attempting, with mixed results, a scaled-down "Night Music" on a stage bigger than a postage stamp but considerably smaller than the Shubert (site of the 1974 Los Angeles premiere).
Size isn't much of a problem. Rather than an orchestra, pianist Norbert Zwickl directs a four-instrument ensemble (Patty Lebow on harp, Andy Taylor on cello and flute) that is full-bodied. The chorus of evening strollers have enough room on the stage to melodiously comment on the foolish lovers without bumping into each other. Director Mark W. Travis uses the aisles to lend the lovers' chases some extra energy.
The voices are even less of a problem. Bettina Devin's Anne is an elegant counterpoint to Maria Adams' Charlotte in "Every Day A Little Death" (the anthem-to-beat-all-anthems of sad, jilted wives). Doug Carfrae's Fredrik isn't in the majestic vocal league of Bill Malone's Count, but they make a nice match for "It Would Have Been Wonderful." The chorus, though not always of one voice, maintains a pristine quality throughout. Add Betty Garrett's handling of "Liaisons" (as Mme. Armfeldt) and Kevin McMahon squeezing every tormented drop out of Henrik, and you have a cast that's vocally close to the Broadway original.