A Little Night Music

A Little Night Music is one of Sondheim’s most popular musicals, especially in London. Featuring music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler, the show is inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s film ‘Smiles of a Summer Night’ and follows the romantic entanglements of various couples. The show is written almost entirely in 3/4 waltz time, or derivatives thereof and includes show standards ‘Send in the Clowns’, ‘The Miller’s Son’ and ‘A Weekend in the Country’.  The show has been revived countless times in London, and has become a highly regarded musical, with many stage actresses longing to play the part of fading rose Desire Armfelt.

A Little Night Music

Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim

Hugh Wheeler

the film Smiles of a Summer Night by Ingmar Bergman

Harold Prince

Harold Prince

Patricia Birch

A Little Night Music - Original Broadway

A Little Night Music - Original Broadway

Schubert Theatre - Opened 25 Feb 1973, closed 3 Aug 1974

Cast: Glynis Johns (Desiree Armfeldt), Len Cariou (Fredrik Egerman), Hermione Gingold (Madame Armfeldt), Victoria Mallory, Judith Kahan, Mark Lambert, Laurence Guittard, Patricia Elliott, George Lee Andrews, and D. Jamin Bartlett.

A Little Night Music Original London

A Little Night Music - Original London

Adelphi Theatre - Opened 15 Apr 1975, closed 1 Jan 1970, 406 performances

Cast: Jean Simmons, Joss Ackland, David Kernan, Liz Robertson, Diane Langton, and Hermione Gingold.

A Little Night Music - First London Revival

A Little Night Music - First London Revival

Piccadilly Theatre - Opened 6 Oct 1989, closed 17 Feb 1990

A Little Night Music - National Theatre

A Little Night Music - National Thetare

National Theatre - Opened 26 Sep 1995, closed 31 Aug 1996

Cast: Judi Dench, Joanna Riding 

A Little Night Music - Menier

A Little Night Music - Menier Chocolate Factory

Menier Chocolate Factory - Opened 22 Nov 2008, closed 8 Mar 2009

Cast: Hannah Waddingham, Jesse Buckley, Alexander Hanson

A Little Night Music - Garrick

A Little Night Music - 3rd London Revival

Garrick Theatre - Opened 28 Mar 2009, closed 25 Jul 2009

Cast: Hannah Waddingham, Jesse Buckley, Alexander Hanson

A Little Night Music - Broadway Revival

A Little Night Music - Broadway Revival

Walter Kerr Theatre - Opened 13 Dec 2009, closed 9 Jan 2011, 425 performances

Cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Angela Lansbury, Leigh Ann Larkin, Alexander Hanson. Elaine Stritch and Bernadette Peters took over in the role. 

What was your favourite production? Add your thoughts in the comments box


The musical is set in Sweden around the turn of the 20th Century. We are introduced to a Quintet who act as a form of Greek chorus, vocalising their thoughts on the proceedings and relationships of the lead characters. A waltz begins and the characters begin to dance with their respective partners, although this begins to shift and change. As they settle down, the elderly Madame Armfeldt enters with her granddaughter Fredrika, whom she tells about the summer night ‘smiling’ three times – first on the young, secondly on the fools and thirdly on the old. The first couple we see is the middle aged Fredrik Egerman, a lawyer who has recently married his second wife, 18 year old Ann. She is incredibly immature and full of herself, not fully grasping the concept of marriage. She is secretly in love with his song Henrik, who is a year older then his stepmother. Frederick laments the lack of physical love between him and his wife, as he wife tells him that it will happen ‘soon’. Henrik, who is constantly told ‘later’ is a seminary student and suffers with constant torments.

Frederick’s former lover Desiree Armfeldt is a actress who leads ‘The Glamorous Life’. Her daughter Fredrika is taken care of by her mother Madame Armfeldt whilst she tours the country in various productions. Frederick excites Anne by giving her two tickets to Desiree’s latest play, although she doesn’t realise his true intentions are to see his ex-lover once again. At the play, Anne works out the connection and storms home. Fredrik remembers his past connections and pays Desiree a visit in her dressing room. Although they are happy to see each other, there are many awkward moments as they try to remember their past life together, and Fredrick tells her all about Anne. The pair sleep together for ‘old times sake’ but are interrupted by Count Carl-Magnus, with whom Desiree has been having an affair with. They fool him into believing that Fredrick was only visiting on a professional basis and he returns to his wife Charlotte, whilst musing over their real intentions. Charlotte is blissfully aware of her husband’s deceit, but Carl-Magnus is too wound up in his own jealousy over Desiree that he fails to notice that she doesn’t care. He hatches a plot to send Charlotte round to Anne’s home to tell her what has been going on.

At the Egerman home Charlotte explains to Anne that marriage often brings a lot of pain. Desiree persuades her mother to throw a party at her country estate so she can invite Fredirk, Anne and Henrik. She sends out a personal invitation to them all, and as Charlotte tells her husband, he tells her that they will too arrive at the estate unannounced. The first act closes as everyone prepares for their ‘Weekend in the Country’.

Everyone arrives at the home of Madam Armfeldt, each with their own motives and desires. The women bicker, and Fredrick is astonished to discover Desiree’s daughter Fredrika. He and Carl Magus discuss how wonderful Desiree really is. They all sit down for dinner, and Charlotte becomes increasingly more drunk, flirting with Fredrik to annoy her husband. Everyone begins shouting and Henrik finally cracks, scolding the amoral nature of the meeting. Fredrika tells Anne that Henrik is in love with her and they run off to find him. Desiree asks Fredrick is he needs to be saved from his life. He tells her that he is still in love with her, but only as a dream. Anne finally finds Henrik who is attempting to kill himself. Anne stops him, and they kiss leading to their first sexual encounter. Madame Armfelt’s manservant Frid is sleeping with Petra, Anne’s maid and she sings of the freedom not being married can bring a person. Carl Magus challenges Fredrik to a game of Russian Roulette, in which Fredrik misfires and hits his ear. Charlotte and the Count reconcile and he gives up on his dream of Desiree. Fredrik finally confesses his love for Desiree and accepts Fredrika as his daughter. Anne and Henrik run off together, as the third smile on the old leads Armfeldt to a peaceful death.


Act I

  • Overture
  • Night Waltz
  • Piano Practice
  • Now
  • Later
  • Soon
  • The Glamorous Life
  • Remember I
  • Remember III
  • You Must Meet My Wife
  • Liasons
  • In Praise of Women
  • Every Day a Little Death
  • A Weekend in the Country
Act II
  • Entr’acte
  • Night Waltz – The Sun Won’t Set
  • Night Waltz II
  • It Would Have Been Wonderful
  • Dinner Table Scene
  • Send in the Clowns
  • Miller’s Son
  • Soon-Reprise
  • You Must Meet My Wife-Reprise
  • Liasons-Underscore
  • A Weekend in the Country-Reprise
  • Every Day a Little Death-Reprise
  • Send in the Clowns-Reprise
  • Bows

1973 Tony Awards: Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Leading Actress, Best Costume Design.

1995 Olivier Awards: Best Actress in a Musical (Judi Dench)

2010: Best Actress in a Musical (Catherine Zeta Jones)


UK: Josef Weinberger

USA: Musical Theatre International



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