A Little Night Music officially opens at the National Theatre St Kilda tonight, following a successful season in Geelong and after what leading lady Nadine Garner describes as a “fast and furious” rehearsal process.
“It’s a big show!” exclaimed Garner.
Garner first saw Sondheim’s A Little Night Music when it was presented by the MTC back in the 90’s, in a production she describes as “amazing”, but says it was very much a cast of actors.
In this latest production, by company Watch This, Garner says audiences will experience a very “singer-lead” version of the show with some extraordinary classical voices, along with a few actors, like herself, who “dabble” in singing.
“This one definitely delivers in terms of exquisite voices,” said Garner.
Nadine Garner is a highly regarded actor of stage and screen, but has less experience in musical theatre. The last musical she performed in was another Sondheim by Watch This – Assassins.
“I’m well aware of the complexity of Sondheim. In fact, Assassins was much harder for me in terms of the musical technicalities of it, whereas the role of Desiree Armfeldt doesn’t have as many complex harmonies or parts. She’s not so choral, which in Assassins I was, so my poor brain nearly exploded trying to learn all of these counter-intuitive harmonies and just really weird stuff. So I know the world of Sondheim and when I said yes, I’d love to do the role, I kind of knew what I was in for … it’s just deeply complex,” explained Garner.
To prepare for the role of Desiree Armfeldt, Nadine Garner listened to the Broadway version of A Little Night Music, although admits she wasn’t really a fan of the way Catherine Zeta-Jones portrayed the character.
Garner will deliver her own take on the character of Desiree Armfeldt.
“I absolutely feel this is the right role for me now. I feel very privileged to have been asked to do it actually, because it’s one of those roles I could have missed. So I’m really grateful for the opportunity. It’s a beautiful role,” said Garner.
Garner describes the role as a complex one.
“It’s definitely an actor’s role. It’s sort of deeply psychological. I’m definitely approaching it as an actor who has a couple of songs – that’s how I approach everything.”
Perhaps the best known song from the show is ‘Send In The Clowns’, which Garner gets to perform. It’s a song she first learnt when taking singing lessons as a child.
“I had no idea what the song meant!” she exclaimed, admitting she knew it sounded like a sad and melancholy song, but had no understanding of why.
“The song has been in the back of my mind, and in my life, for my whole life. It’s such a gift to step into the show and step into the mind of the character and really understand the lyrics of that song. It’s a funny old thing when you get to inhabit a song that has been in the periphery and then you suddenly embody it – or it can embody you. It’s just a really wonderful opportunity and I feel very grateful for it. It’s been a real journey for me, playing this role and learning my way into the songs,” said Garner.
Garner explained her character is an aging person at a point of existential crisis in her life, who is summing up what is important and what has been important, and how to live the rest of her life.
“They’re really universal themes of aging and loss and grief and regret – it’s bittersweet, but it’s a beautiful journey.”
“I think it’s a show for everyone,” added Garner.
A Little Night Music opens at the National Theatre in St Kilda tonight.