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<p>L-R: Tru Stites (as Fredrik), Kate Maniuszko (Anne), Victoria Mesa (Desiree Armfeldt), Nijah Dent (Charlotte), and Dal Saunders (Carl-Magnus) in the Otterbein Departments of Theatre &amp; Dance and Music production of “A Little Night Music.”</p>
<p>Photo By: John Hulkenberg</p>
L-R: Tru Stites (as Fredrik), Kate Maniuszko (Anne), Victoria Mesa (Desiree Armfeldt), Nijah Dent (Charlotte), and Dal Saunders (Carl-Magnus) in the Otterbein Departments of Theatre & Dance and Music production of “A Little Night Music.” Photo By: John Hulkenberg

Otterbein Theatre's A Little Night Music takes innovative risk

Director Melissa Lusher converted the musical's Greek chorus into full-fledged characters

After months of planning, auditions, and rehearsals, the Otterbein Theatre Department delivered their unique adaptation of Steven Sondheim’s musical A Little Night Music. 

Set in modern times, this musical follows the deeply twisted love affairs between Desirée Armfeldt, an actress; Fredrik Egerman, a lawyer; and Count Carl-Magnus Malcom. Intensifying matters is Egerman's marriage to Anne, a naïve 18-year-old, and Count Malcom's marriage to the Countess Charlotte. When Desirée begs her mother to host a party in her luxurious country home, these twisted affairs spark elaborate schemes, seductions, and a duel. 

Throughout the musical, a quintet of gods acts as guiding forces to the main characters’ ultimate happiness through symbolic choreography and physicality. Each god is assigned to two main characters that they physically shadow throughout the musical. With their almighty powers, the gods attempt to guide the characters to their happiest and most fulfilled selves. However, because humans have free will, the main characters do not necessarily heed the guidance of the gods.

These five gods are what makes this production unique to others in the past.

In the original script, the quintet acts in the style of an ancient Greek chorus by reacting to what’s happening on stage in the way an audience member would. They were originally known as the Liebeslieder singers rather than gods.

However, director Melissa Lusher said she wanted to accentuate these characters more in her vision of the production. “I’ve never been fully satisfied, frankly, with that use of those five people. They seem to sort of come out of nowhere, they sing a song, and then they leave… They seem irrelevant. They don’t seem integrated into the story.”

This dissatisfaction led to Lusher’s idea to turn the quintet into gods. “In our production, they appear on stage vastly more often than they do in the actual script. And that was also a pedagogical tool for those actors who were casted in those roles. We want to give them more to do,” Lusher said.

While this adaptation integrated the characters throughout the story, Lusher reflected that the incorporation of the Gods was risky for the musical. “[This production] has never been done with these five [gods]… So this is completely original, and it was very risky,” Lusher said. 

While some have loved this adaptation, others have been confused. But, according to Lusher, “When you stop taking chances and you stop risking in the theater, the theater dies, so it was a risk we all were willing to take.”

While this unique and experimental adaptation of A Little Night Music has concluded its run, the Otterbein Theatre Department is scheduled to present many more innovative productions throughout the year. Tickets for the next production, Black Comedy, can be found at the Otterbein Theatre Department’s website. All full-time students receive a free ticket with the presentation of a valid Cardinal Card.

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