Will Zeta-Jones and Lansbury Be Daughter and Mother of A Little Night Music?

News   Will Zeta-Jones and Lansbury Be Daughter and Mother of A Little Night Music?
The new Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's A Little Night Music will open in December 2009 at a theatre to be announced, but who will be the leading lady who famously hopes that someone will "Send in the Clowns"?

Catherine Zeta-Jones
Catherine Zeta-Jones Photo by Aubrey Reuben

No casting or production details for the revival of the 1973 Tony Award-winning musical comedy have been announced. This production comes by way of London, where Trevor Nunn directed an acclaimed revival for the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2008. It moved to the West End in spring 2009.

Industry sources told Playbill.com that, just as in London, the casting would be younger than the original Broadway production, which featured 50-year-old Glynis Johns as the rueful stage actress Desirée Armfeldt, who warbles "Send in the Clowns." (She won a Best Actress Tony for it.) Actresses in their thirties were auditioned in New York City in recent months. Desiree has a 13-year-old daughter in the Swedish-set musical that takes place at the turn-of-the-last-century.

The New York Post reported on Aug. 21 that 39-year-old Academy Award-winning Welsh movie star Catherine Zeta-Jones (who snagged her Oscar for playing Velma in "Chicago") will play Desiree, and that multiple Tony Award winner Angela Lansbury (Sweeney Todd, Mame, Blithe Spirit and more) will play her mother, Madame Armfeldt, whose country estate is the setting for romantic encounters, sexual clashes and a duel with pistols. The musical is based on the Ingmar Bergman film, "Smiles of a Summer Night."

A spokesman had no official announcement of production or casting details. An announcement is expected shortly; the aim of a December opening night was recently confirmed. Rehearsals begin in October.

* Producers are David Babani for Chocolate Factory Productions; Andrew Fell; Frankel, Viertel, Baruch, Routh Group.

The production will also feature musical supervision by Carolyn Humphris, musical direction by Tom Murray and choreography by Lynne Page, the same team behind Nunn's London production of Night Music, which officially opened on the West End April 7, 2009, after previews from March 28. Prior to the West End, A Little Night Music was seen at Southwark's Menier Chocolate Factory Nov. 22, 2008-March 8, 2009, where it completely sold out.

A Little Night Music — featuring a score by Sondheim and a book by Wheeler — originally opened at Broadway's Shubert Theatre on Feb. 25, 1973, with a cast that included Glynis Johns as Desiree, Len Cariou as Fredrik and Hermione Gingold as Madame Armfeldt. The show, directed by Harold Prince, garnered five 1973 Tony Awards, including one for Best Musical. The Tony-winning Sondheim score features the composer's best-known tune, "Send in the Clowns," as well as "Every Day a Little Death," "The Miller's Son" and "A Weekend in the Country." Wheeler also won a Best Book Tony.

A recent Roundabout Theatre Company gala concert reading of the musical, directed by Scott Ellis, featured the late Natasha Richardson (Desirée Armfeldt) as well as Victor Garber (Frederick Egerman), Christine Baranski (Countess Charlotte Malcolm), Jill Paice (Anne Egerman), Marc Kudisch (Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm), Vanessa Redgrave (Madame Armfeldt), Steven Pasquale (Henrik Egerman), Kendra Kassebaum (Petra), Alexandra Socha (Fredrika), Maija Lisa Currie (Mrs. Nordstrom), Steven Goldstein (Mr. Erlandson), Leena Chopra (Mrs. Segestrom), Julianne Borg (Mrs. Anderssen) and Philip Cokorinos (Mr. Lindquist).

Nunn's dozens of directing credits include Gone With the Wind, Cats, Chess, Starlight Express, Not About Nightingales and Les Miserables. He has been the artistic director of both the Royal Shakespeare Society and the Royal National Theatre.

Here's the way Broadway producers are characterizing the show:

"Based on Ingmar Bergman's film 'Smiles of a Summer Night,' A Little Night Music is set in a weekend country house in turn of the century Sweden, bringing together surprising liaisons, long simmering passions and a taste of love's endless possibilities. Hailed as witty and wildly romantic, the story centers on the elegant actress Desirée Armfeldt and the spider's web of sensuality, intrigue and desire that surrounds her. The Sondheim score features one of the composer's best-known tunes, 'Send in the Clowns,' as well as 'Every Day a Little Death,' 'The Miller's Son' and 'A Weekend in the Country.'"

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