It's not hard to see the appeal of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's musical waltz through the mating game that so captivated Broadway on its 1973 debut. From teenage dreams to mid-life crises and beyond, it is sex that drives its action, after all. It may be set in 1900 Sweden, but it remains a text-book study of a neurotically self-absorbed generation coming to terms with the trickle-down possibilities the sixties brought in its wake. This much is clear from John Durnin's stately revival, beyond the chocolate box veneer of Charles Cusick Smith's set which puts the full compliment of Pitlochry's acting ensemble into the frame. All this with great songs to boot.
This is laid bare once the dressed-up chorus gathered round a baby grand give way to the play's principal players, who let off steam with the opening salvo of Now, Later and Soon, as the frustrations of middle-aged lawyer Fredric Egerman, his teenage virgin bride Anne and his horny but hapless adolescent son Henrik are unleashed. With Fredrik's old flame, actress Desiree Armfeldt, still burning, a country house party allows full vent for the emotional merry-go-round to work its magic.
As Fredrik and Desiree, Dougal Lee and Basienka Blake strike just the right balance of desperation and hope, with Blake in fine voice for a still show-stopping Send in the Clowns. With all the cast wielding instruments alongside musical director Jon Beales' live quartet, there is strong support too from Ceri-lyn Cissone as Anne, Gavin Swift as Henrik and especially from Isla Carter as worldly wise maid Petra in a pan-generational pot-pourri of innocence and experience that fuels this most grown-up of musicals.
The Herald, June 30th 2015