Having experimented beyond its traditional Vancouver base with a touring production of Rodgers & Hammerstein: Out of a Dream in 2015, Patrick Street Productions will present Sondheim’s A Little Night Music at the Anvil Centre in New Westminster.
“This is such a gorgeous space and we wondered why more theatre wasn’t happening there,” says Patrick Street’s artistic producer and the show’s director, Peter Jorgensen.
Originally thinking the company might do an out-of-town tryout in New Westminster before moving the show to Vancouver, Jorgensen and his team discovered the numbers simply would not work.
“So we sat down and did a pros and cons list, and the pros outnumbered the cons,” says Jorgensen of the decision to mount the production in The Royal City.
While there was some risk in moving to New Westminster, Jorgensen is pleased with the reception the show has already received, confident the accessibility of the venue will also bring its traditional audiences out.
“Presales are actually ahead of any of our previous shows so that is very encouraging,” says Jorgensen. “A lot of people from Vancouver think it is really way out there, and it really isn’t. The Anvil Centre is right across from the New West Skytrain station which makes it very accessible for our traditional base coming from Vancouver.”
Self-confessed snobs when it comes to choosing the company’s shows, Jorgensen admits the choice of A Little Night Music is driven partially by a need to attract a new audience.
“We typically pick shows that are written with a lot of intelligence, and we always want a show that has soul and heart; we know that can be tricky,” he says. “When we decided to test the waters in New West we wanted something with a little name recognition so we could hopefully draw some new audience members to a show out here.”
But while A Little Night Music may be a known commodity over some of the company’s previous shows, including The Light in the Piazza and Floyd Collins, it doesn’t mean it is any less challenging.
“Hal Prince described A Little Night Music perfectly as ‘whipped cream with knives’”, says Jorgensen. “The beautiful thing about the show is every scene and song has the balance of those two elements.”
Taking Prince’s description to heart, Jorgensen is combining the charming and effervescent feel from Ingmar Bergman’s 1955 film Smiles of a Summer Night, on which the musical is based, and mixing it with Sondheim’s bite.
“It has this wonderful ability to make an audience laugh and fall in love, and in the next moment say ‘ouch’,” he says. “It is really rich in that way.”
Perhaps best known for the song Send in the Clowns, Jorgensen is using the song’s recognition to his advantage as well.
“It is one of the simplest songs Sondheim wrote on a compositional level, but it is also one which hits an honest emotional core with people,” he says. “Katey [Wright] is singing the song and she does such a beautiful job with along with Warren [Kimmel].”
It is a sentiment Jorgensen hopes will resonate with a new audience in New Westminster. Combined with his company’s traditional Vancouver base, he is confident A Little Night Music is just the beginning of the new relationship being forged as Patrick Street heads into its tenth year.
“We’re excited about setting roots in New West,” he says. “And people who have loved our shows in Vancouver will really love coming to New West.”
A Little Night Music is the musical story is a series of trysts, twists, and revelations that climaxes, so to speak, during a weekend gathering at a country estate. The original production received six Tony Awards including best musical, and is considered by many to be one of Sondheim’s most beloved scores.
A Little Night Music plays the Anvil Centre (777 Columbia St, New Westminster) from May 11-21. Visit http://anvilcentre.com for tickets and information.