By Jim Rutter
FOR THE INQUIRER
The Arden Theatre first staged Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music in 1995 at the Arts Bank on Broad and South Streets. Two decades on, they've upstaged the musical with a gorgeously designed, magnificently presented production that, as a capstone to the Arden's 25th season, revels in its success.
Hugh Wheeler's book (inspired by Ingmar Bergman's 1955 film Smiles of a Summer Night) depicts the intermingled romantic follies of three couples: mid-40s lawyer Fredrik Egerman (Christopher Patrick Mullen) and his 18-year-old still-virgin bride, Anne (Patti-Lee Meringo), who teases her husband's seminary-student son, Henrik (Joe Hogan), even as he flirts with the maid, Petra (Alex Keiper), while his dad tries to rekindle a romance with actress Desiree (Grace Gonglewski), herself stoking the dying fires of an affair with Count Carl-Magnus (Ben Dibble), as his marriage to Countess Charlotte (Karen Peakes) falters.
That's a lot to keep straight across the cast of 15 mostly local actors, but director Terry Nolen's smooth staging perfectly integrates their layered storylines. Strong singing from Dibble, Hogan, Meringo, and Keiper excites in solos, duets, and trios, and in "Weekend in the Country," the rousing ensemble number that closes Act One.